A Step-by-Step Guide for Yom Kippur in Santa Monica.
On Yom Kippur the day when we are likened to angels, many have a custom to wear white clothing while praying. Married Ashkenazi men traditionally wear a simple, long white garment called a kittel. The kittel is also the traditional Jewish shroud; wearing it reminds us of our mortality and urges us to repent.
Before sunset, women and girls light holiday candles, and everyone changes into non-leather shoes and holiday finery.
Chabad Santa Monica – Living Torah Center
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Santa Monica, Ca 90401
On Yom Kippur, the tallit (prayer shawl) is worn for all the prayer services. In preparation for Kol Nidrei, the tallit should preferably be donned before sunset. (If donning the tallit after sunset, the traditional blessing is not recited.)
He chants the Kol Nidrei three times, each time on a slightly higher note Ideally, Kol Nidrei should begin shortly before sunset. The Torah scrolls are all removed from the Ark – it is a great mitzvah to purchase the honor of holding the first Torah scroll – and the procession of scrolls moves towards the bimah (reading table) while everyone kisses and embraces the passing Torahs.
After requesting permission, from both the heavenly and earthly courts, to “pray with the transgressors,” the cantor begins the Kol Nidrei. He chants the Kol Nidrei three times, each time on a slightly higher note. The congregation reads along with the cantor, in an undertone.
The Kol Nidrei is followed by a few brief verses and prayers and culminates with the Shehecheyanu blessing, in which we thank G‑d for “granting us life, sustaining us, and allowing us to reach this occasion.” This blessing is recited in honor of every holiday, but usually following the night’s kiddush. On Yom Kippur, because there is no kiddush, the blessing was incorporated as part of the prayers. Women and girls do not recite this blessing with the congregation—as they have already recited it after lighting the holiday candles.
In most congregations, at this point the rabbi delivers a sermon. In many congregations, this sermon is accompanied by an appeal—for charity has the power to evoke heavenly mercy.
The evening prayer service then commences.
We are likened to angels, so we too, like the angels, can recite it out loud During Yom Kippur, every time we say the second verse of the Shema, the Baruch Shem verse – “Blessed is the Name of the glory of Your kingship forever and ever” – it is proclaimed out loud. Throughout the year, this blessing is recited in an undertone, as it was “stolen” from the angels. On Yom Kippur, however, we are likened to angels, so we too, like the angels, can recite it out loud.
Yom Kipper Santa Monica Services
The special Yom Kippur Amidah (standing prayer) incorporates a lengthy confession of sins. This confession is recited silently, and with each sin that we confess we lightly knock our chest – the domicile of the heart, the seat of our passions and impulses – with our fist. The confession is later repeated, after the Amidah, together with the entire congregation. This double confession is repeated during all the day’s prayers, with the exception of the final Neilah prayer.
The Amidah is followed by liturgy interspersed with the recitation of the verse (Exodus 34:6-7) that alludes to G‑d’s Thirteen Attributes of Compassion: “G‑d, G‑d, benevolent G‑d, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in kindness and truth; He preserves kindness for two thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and He cleanses.”
The entire Kol Nidrei and evening service take approximately two hours.
Many have the custom to recite the entire Book of Psalms after the evening service.
Yom Kippur Santa Monica – Morning and Early Afternoon Service
We read about the special Yom Kippur service in the Holy Temple. The joint morning and Musaf service occupies the bulk of the day (approximately 6 hours). The morning service pretty much follows the order of the traditional Shabbat and holiday service. The special Yom Kippur Amidah and confession is recited, followed again by songs and special Yom Kippur liturgy.
Two Torah scrolls are taken from the Ark, and from them we read about the special Yom Kippur service in the Holy Temple—may it soon be rebuilt. The haftorah discusses the concepts of repentance and fasting, the theme du jour of Yom Kippur.
The Torah reading is followed by the Yizkor service—traditionally preceded by the rabbi’s homily. In the Yizkor prayer, we beseech G‑d to kindly remember the souls of our dear departed ones; traditionally, all those who do not recite Yizkor (i.e., those whose parents are both still alive) leave the synagogue in Santa Monica for the duration of the brief prayer.
The Yizkor service is followed by the Musaf service. The most prominent feature of this is the Avodah, a rather lengthy and detailed recounting of the Yom Kippur service in the Holy Temple, whose highlight was the High Priest’s entry into the Holy of Holies. During the course of the Avodah, on three occasions we relate how the High Priest would pronounce G‑d’s ineffable name, and in response the assembled Jews would prostrate themselves on the ground. When reaching these passages, we too prostrate ourselves on our hands and knees.
We beseech G‑d to restore the Temple service with the coming of Moshiach. The Avodah concludes with a series of prayers wherein we beseech G‑d to restore the Temple service with the coming of Moshiach. We also recount the tragic story of the cold-blooded murder of the “Ten Martyrs” by the Roman regime.
Towards the end of the Musaf, the kohanim (priests) administer the Priestly Blessing.
In most synagogues, the Musaf prayer is followed by a break, lasting between one to three hours.
Yom Kipper Santa Monica Services
We welcome you to come back to the late afternoon Yom Kipper service in Santa Monica for Minchah, the afternoon prayer, is called for 1-2 hours before sunset.
The service commences with the Torah reading, which speaks of the purity of Jewish life and warns us not to engage in immoral practices. For the haftorah we read the entire Book of Jonah, which contains a timely message on the importance of repentance and prayer.
The Yom Kippur Amidah is then followed by a few brief prayers. The entire Minchah service lasts approximately one hour.
Now, moments before sunset, in the waning hours of Yom Kippur in Santa Monica, we reach the climax of the holiest day of the year, and we recite the Neilah prayer. “Neilah” means locked. The gates of Heaven, which were open all day, will now be closed—with us on the inside. During this prayer we have the ability to access the most essential level of our soul, the level that is in a state of absolute oneness with her creator. The Holy Ark remains open for the duration of the entire prayer.
The Neilah Amidah is somewhat abbreviated—it does not contain the lengthy version of the confession. The Amidah is followed by a selection of prayers and culminates with the cantor emphatically proclaiming the words of the Shema – “Hear, O Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is one!” With intense concentration, the congregation repeats the verse. The cantor then recites the Baruch Shem three times, again followed by the congregation. Finally, with all his might the cantor proclaims seven times, “The L‑rd is G‑d!” and again, the congregation repeats. This is followed by the . joyous proclamation, “Next Year in Jerusalem!”
The shofar is then sounded—one triumphant, long blast.
The shofar (ram’s horn) is then sounded—one triumphant, long blast. Most Chabad synagogues, the shofar blast is preceded by the euphoric singing of “Napoleon’s March” At this point we are ecstatically confident that G‑d has sealed us all for a wonderful year: a year of happiness, prosperity, and health; the year when we will finally experience the long-awaited Redemption.
[The sages say:] Yom Kippur atones only for those who repent.
Rabbi [Judah HaNassi] says: Yom Kippur atones whether one repents or one does not repent. Talmud, Shevuot 13a
On Yom Kippur, the day itself atones… as it is written, For on this day, it shall atone for you. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 1:3
Citing the prophet Isaiah’s call, “Seek G-d when He may be found, call upon Him when He is near,” the Talmud says: “These are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.” These ten days, called The Ten Days of Teshuvah, are the most solemn days of the year — days designated for soul-searching and return (teshuvah) to G-d. G-d is near–more attentive to our prayers, more accepting of our repentance, than on the other days of the year. But are there ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of Tishrei, while Yom Kippur is on the tenth of that month. Thus, the Ten Days of Teshuvah include Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Indeed, teshuvah is a dominant theme in the observances and prayers of both festivals. Yet the Talmud, in the above-quoted passage and in other places, speaks of the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Chassidic teaching explains that while Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are themselves days of teshuvah, they each embody a principle that goes beyond the concept of return: the essence of Rosh Hashanah precedes teshuvah, while the essence of Yom Kippur supersedes teshuvah. Thus, the Ten Days of Teshuvah include the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and, at the same time, are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The Virtue in Sin
The Torah describes the people of Israel as “the nation close to Him.” What does it mean that we are close to G-d? There are three fundamental aspects to our relationship with the Almighty and the manner in which it is expressed in our lives.
On the most elementary level, we achieve connection with G-d through our observance of the mitzvot, the Divine commandments. The mitzvot embody the will of G-d; by observing the mitzvot and making their fulfillment the substance and aim of our lives, our souls and bodies become vehicles of the Divine will.
But when a person violates the Divine will, G-d forbid, he uncovers an even deeper dimension of his bond with G-d. The connection created by the mitzvah is exactly that — a connection created between two separate entities. Taken on its own, this connection does not point to any intrinsic bond between the two. In fact, it implies that the natural state of the doer of the mitzvah is one of separateness and distinction from G-d — a state which is overcome by the act of the mitzvah, which bridges the gulf between the mortal and the Divine. But when a person transgresses a Divine command, a deeper bond with G-d comes to light. His inner equilibrium is disturbed; his soul finds no peace and is driven to compensate for its devastated identity with material excesses or profane spiritual quests. His transgressions highlight the fact that there is nothing more unnatural than a soul estranged from her G-d.
Teshuvah is a soul’s experience of the agony of disconnection from its source and its channeling of this agony to drive its return to G-d. Thus, our sages have said that the sins of a baal teshuvah (returnee) are “transformed into merits,” and that he attains a level of relationship with G-d on which “even the perfectly righteous cannot stand.” His transgressions become virtues, for the distance and disconnection they created have become the impetus for greater closeness and deeper connection. His sins have provoked — and his teshuvah has actualized — a dimension of his soul’s connection to G-d, which a perfectly righteous life never touches.
The One of the Year
But there is also a third, even deeper, dimension to our bond with G-d.
The two types of connection discussed above have one thing in common: they both allow for the possibility of disconnection. The mitzvah relates to the level on which our finite and mortal nature set us apart from G-d — a state of affairs, which the mitzvah comes to overcome. The transgression makes the opposite point (that connection with G-d is the natural state of every soul) with its very dissevering of this connection, teshuvah being the consequential effort to restore the natural bond.
Ultimately, however, there is a quintessential bond between the soul and G-d that is immutable. On the deepest level of our being, there can be no disconnection, natural or unnatural.
This underlying oneness with G-d is the root from which the other two levels of connection stem. Every time we do a mitzvah, we draw from this quintessential unity with G-d the power to overcome our natural apartness and connect to G-d through the fulfillment of His will. Every time we sin and experience the agony of disconnection from G-d, this is but another expression of the fact that, in essence, our soul is one with its Creator. And it is this unity with G-d that empowers us to restore our relationship with G-d — on the level on which our transgressions do affect it — through the process of teshuvah.
These, however, are only glimmers of a deeper truth, expressions of unity rising to the surface of a life that is perceptively distinct and apart. But one day each year, our quintessential oneness with G-d shines forth in all its glory. This day is Yom Kippur, which the Torah refers to as “the one of the year.”
Yom Kippur is more than a day of teshuvah. Teshuvah, “return”, implies that, in the interim, one has been somewhere else; Yom Kippur is a day on which we are empowered to actualize that dimension of our soul whose unity with G-d has never been disturbed in the first place.
Thus, our sages say that on Yom Kippur, “the day itself atones”. There is even an opinion, held by Rabbi Judah HaNassi, that the day itself atones even for those who do not repent their sins. For on this day, we achieve atonement for our sins not only by exploiting them as an impetus for return, but also by uncovering that element of self that is never touched by sin at all.
Foundation and End
During the Ten Days of Teshuvah, G-d makes Himself more accessible to us — on all three levels of connection discussed above.
It is a period in which special mitzvot are commanded to us (sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, fasting on Yom Kippur, etc.), opening unique avenues of connection to G-d via the fulfillment of His will.
It is a period of heightened opportunity for teshuvah — a time when our souls are more sensitive to the break from G-d caused by our transgressions and more driven to return.
But the foundation and objective of all connection with G-d is the quintessential bond which requires no deed to effect it and which no deed can affect. In the Ten Days of Teshuvah, the foundation is laid on Rosh Hashanah and attains its ultimate realization on Yom Kippur.
The defining quality of Rosh Hashanah is that it is the day we crown G-d as king over us. What does it mean that we accept G-d as our king? The king-subject metaphor is one of many employed by the Torah to describe our relationship with G-d, which is also referred to in terms of the relationship between husband and wife, shepherd and flock, master and disciple, among others. The king-subject relationship is unique in that it is not defined by equivocal criteria (love, nurture, intellectual appreciation, etc.), but rather involves the abnegation of the subject’s very self to the sovereign. On Rosh Hashanah we relate to G-d as our king, affirming our bond to Him as the very essence of our identity.
Our acceptance of G-d as king is the basis for our other levels of connection with G-d — mitzvot and teshuvah. The concept of a Divine commandment has meaning only after one has accepted G-d as the authority over one’s life; and a transgression is a transgression (and thus an impetus to teshuvah) only because it violates a Divine command.
Thus, the Ten Days of Teshuvah are defined as the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They are preceded by Rosh Hashanah, since our submission to the Divine sovereignty is the basis for teshuvah — including the teshuvah we do on the two days of Rosh Hashanah (which are themselves part of the ten). And they are superseded by Yom Kippur, since Yom Kippur, in addition to itself being a day of teshuvah, is the ultimate realization of the soul’s quintessential oneness with G-d — a oneness which teshuvah expresses and from which teshuvah draws its power, but which transcends the very concept of “return”.
Chabad Santa Monica – Living Torah Center
1130 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, Ca 90401