A Song For Yom Kippur



The holy Berditchever Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, stood at the podium, ready to begin the final prayer of Yom Kippur — Ne’ilah. The crowd stood, hushed, awaiting the familiar strains of kaddish: Yisgadel Viyiskadesh Shmei Rabbah . . .



Instead, amazingly, the Rebbe began to sing. And this is what he sang:



Master of the Universe,
I wish to make an exchange with You.



Should You ask me what sort of exchange,
I will tell You:



I will give You our sins, errors, and transgressions,
O Father.



Should You ask me what I wish for them,
I will tell You:

You will give us forgiveness, pardon, and atonement,
O Father.



Should You think it will be an even exchange,
no, I tell You.

You will add to it “Children, Life, and Livelihood,”
O Father.



Should You ask what I mean by “Children,”
I will tell You:

“Children, and grandchildren, engaged in Torah and Mitzvos,”
O Father.



Should You ask me what I mean by “Life,”
I will tell You:

“Life, Life, in order to thank You and praise You,”
O Father.



Should You ask me what I mean by “Livelihood,”
I will tell You:

“And you shall eat, and be satisfied, and bless Hashem your G-d,”
O Father.

The Egyptians say that their idol is a god,
No, I tell You.



The Parthians say that their idol is a god,
No, I tell You.

The atheists say that there is no G-d,
There is, I tell You.

And I, Levi Yitzchok ben Sarah Sosha,
say:

Yisgadel Viyiskadesh Shmei Rabbah . . .

And with that, the Rebbe of Berditchev began the Ne’ilah prayer.

This, then, is the relationship between G-d and the Jewish Nation. And this is what Yom Kippur is all about. We are guaranteed that if we repent, G-d will forgive us. As it says:



“Let the wicked abandon his ways and the sinner his thoughts. Let him return to G-d, Who will have mercy on him — to our G-d, who is very forgiving.”

— (Isaiah 55:7)

That is all we need — repentance. We stop doing the evil deeds, stop planning evil acts, and return to G-d.

And what do we get for it? As the Torah says:


“Come, now, let us reason together,” G-d says. “If your sins are like scarlet, they will become white as snow; if they are red as crimson, they will become like wool. If you listen and obey, you will eat the best of the land.”

— Isaiah 1:18-19

This is the purpose of Yom Kippur: to return to G-d joyfully, with a full heart.

And G-d promises to forgive, as it says:


On this day you shall have all your sins atoned, so that you will be cleansed. Before G-d you will be cleansed of all your sins.

— Leviticus 16:30

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