“The seal of God is truth.” – Tractate Shabbat 55a
“Truthfulness is the first pillar in the Temple of God-realization. Truth is the gateway to the Kingdom of God.” – Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society
The Hasidic Master, Natan of Nemirov, teaches that on Yom Kippur we enter into the place of truth inside us where God dwells. This experience is symbolized by the entry of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies. Inside the Holy of Holies stood the even shtiyah, the foundation stone. According to the Midrash, the even shiyah is the foundation of the world. It is symbolic of the place of truth within us which is the foundation of our very being.
This, Rebbe Natan explains, is why the High Priest is able to purify the huge gathering of people in the Temple courtyard. One spark of Divine truth is all that we need to purify the whole of our being. Once we grab hold of this living truth it will illuminate our entire consciousness and clear away all the doubts and misconceptions that have tarnished our hearts and minds. It is from this place of clarity that we can find our way out of confusion and darkness. It is from this point of pure being that we attain forgiveness and atonement.
Rebbe Natan also teaches that on Yom Kippur we repair the sin of Adam and Eve. On Yom Kippur we recognize that we do not belong here. We realize that we are not this animal body but sparks of eternal Spirit. This is the reason that we take on the five abstentions on Yom Kippur of fasting, not bathing, not anointing, not having sexual intimacy, and not wearing shoes. On Yom Kippur, we strive to live for at least one day as if we still inhabit bodies composed of light.
A central pillar of the process of finding our inner truth on Yom Kippur is the recitation of the Vidui, the confession. In the Vidui, we take an honest look at ourselves. We see the stark truth about life on this physical plane of existence. We recognize the pathetic nature of all human beings. Therefore, we recite: “We have betrayed, we have robbed, we have spoken slander…” The Vidui is not just a confession of our individual faults; it is an acceptance of the imperfections that lie in the hearts of all human beings.
It is this recognition of the real nature of our worldly existence that begins the journey that will lead us to our true identity. It is this heightened awareness that will awaken within us the wisdom and purity of our Higher Self. Therefore, after each section of the confession we say, “And for them all, O God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, atone for us.” With this phrase, we ask God to lift us out of the darkness of our lower nature and bring us into the light of our Divine Self.
A second key element in this process of discovering our inner truth is the Avodah service that describes the worship of the High Priest in the Temple on Yom Kippur. By reciting this prayer, each of us follows in the footsteps of the High Priest, going deeper and deeper within ourselves until we reach into the ‘Holy of Holies.’
On this day, the High Priest makes five changes of clothing and undergoes five mikvaot – five ritual immersions in a pool of water. On Yom Kippur, we cleanse the impurities in our five bodies or ‘garments’: the physical body, the emotional body, the mental body, the body of spiritual centres and the body of the soul. We purify all these five different aspects of our consciousness. Each act of purification takes us a step closer to the truth that lies at the core of our being. Each act of purification brings us into fuller contact with our Higher Self.
We make this immersion a living process by seeking to discern within ourselves the central point of truth. What is the truth that is clear to us in our heart of hearts? What are the values upon which we want to build our lives? What are the principles that we are willing to die for?
We go through this process again and again until we touch upon a place of living truth that feels as solid as a rock – an even shtiyah or foundation stone upon which we can build our life. Then we inscribe this truth on the tablet of our heart. We make it our personal embodiment of the Eternal Truth that is imprinted in the Mind of God. We utilize this truth as the paradigm by which we measure all of our actions and beliefs.
Neilah is the final service of Yom Kippur. It is the time when we engrave the truth that we have discovered in our hearts and minds. It is the time of affixing this truth at the centre of our life. It is a time of firm conviction when we resolve that this is the ideal by which we will live.
Whenever we recite the Shema, the central prayer of Judaism, we begin by saying out loud the first phrase “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Next, we repeat quietly to ourselves the phrase “Blessed be the name of the glory of His Kingdom for ever and ever.” Then, we recite out loud the paragraph that begins “and you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.”
According to the tradition, the phrase “Blessed be the name of the Glory of His Kingdom for ever and ever” was established by our father Jacob at the moment that he blessed his children on his deathbed. In the Kabbalah, Jacob is the sefirah of tiferet (beauty). This sefirah is also called emet, truth. Jacob is considered to be the embodiment of the attribute of truth. Through his life of struggle and difficulties he reached a profound understanding of the nature of life.
This understanding is encapsulated in the phrase, “Blessed be the name of the Glory of His Kingdom for ever and ever.” Jacob is in essence telling his sons that this world is not the only reality; there are worlds upon worlds upon worlds beyond this one physical plane of existence. Do not accept the truth of this material reality. Look for a truth that will reach up into the Absolute. Seek for the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Normally, we are stuck in the consciousness of this physical reality. We are bound by the truths that this world proclaims. Therefore, in our daily prayers we recite this phrase of the Shema quietly to ourselves, because its truth is not a living reality for us.
On Yom Kippur, however, we reach beyond the external truth of this world to touch the Eternal Truth of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the truth that lies at the heart of our being. On Yom Kippur, this truth becomes real and alive for us. Therefore, Yom Kippur is the one day of the year when we say this phrase out loud “Blessed be the name of the Glory of his Kingdom for ever and ever.” And this is how we end our Yom Kippur prayers.
First, we recite, “Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohainu, Adonai Echad” (Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One)
Next, we declare, “Baruch Shem Kavod Malchuto Leolam Vaed” (Blessed be the name of the Glory of His Kingdom for ever and ever) three times.
And finally we repeat the phrase, “Adonai Hu Haelohim” (Adonai is the Lord and God) seven times.
Each of these three phrases is a forceful proclamation of this one sacred truth.
Following the Divine revelation on Mount Sinai, Moses ascended onto the mountain for forty days and forty nights. During this time, he received the shnai Luchot Habrit, the two Tablets of the Covenant, from God. However, when Moses descended the mountain again, he discovered the Children of Israel worshipping the Golden Calf. In response, Moses took the two Tablets of the Covenant and smashed them to pieces.
After he had destroyed the Golden Calf and carried out the Lord’s command amidst the people, Moses ascended once more onto the mountain for forty days and forty nights. During this period, he received God’s pardon for the sin of the people, and a second set of tablets engraved with the Word of God. According to the tradition, these second Luchot Habrit (Tablets of the Covenant) were given to Moses on Yom Kippur.
The Torah tells us that the first luchot were made by God; the second luchot, however, were made by Moses. The first luchot were hitorerut tele’elah, an arousal from above, where God gave us both the light and the vessel. The second luchot were hitorarut deletatah, an arousal from below, where we had to create the vessel for the light by ourselves. When we received the first luchot, the truth was revealed to us by God in a way that was alive and clear inside us. But when we received the second luchot, the truth was not fixed inside us. With the second luchot, we were forced to search to discover that place of truth from within.
In the wake of the sin of the Golden Calf, the Children of Israel were commanded to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. The Hasidic Master, Shmuel Bornstein of Sochatchov, tells us that before the sin of the Golden Calf, the Mishkan was intended to be an ethereal temple composed of light and energy. After the Golden Calf, however, God decided that the Children of Israel required a physical temple in which to worship Him.
In the Torah, God commands, “And let them make Me a Sanctuary that I might dwell among them.”(Ex. 25: 8) The Hebrew word for “among them” is betocham. This word can also mean “inside them”. The Baal Shem Tov therefore interprets this Biblical phrase to mean that we must create a place inside ourselves for God to dwell. The place of truth inside each of us is this inner temple. Yom Kippur, then, is the tikkun (spiritual repair) of the sin of the Golden Calf.
This Yom Kippur, may we have the courage to recognize the stark truth about ourselves and about this world. May we be blessed to dive deep and reach into the place of eternal truth inside us. Yom Kippur is an opportunity for us to awaken from the fall into ignorance that brought us here so long ago. It is a chance for us to engrave God’s effulgent glory upon the tablets of our hearts. It is a great spiritual opening when we can restore the living temple within us all.
copyright © 2016, Yoel Glick