The UK Chief Rabbi’s D’var Torah for Yom Kippur 5778

When it comes to a very important event, what matters most is the follow up.

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Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis,

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
טוויטר

Yom Kippur is an anniversary; it’s the day on which Moshe came down from Mount Sinai on the second occasion. You’ll recall how, on the first occasion, he came down, witnessed the worshipping of the golden calf and smashed the tablets. Moshe went up again on the first day of the month of Elul and therefore, after forty days and forty nights, it was on the tenth of Tishrei that he came down from the mountain. That day became the original Yom Hakippurim, a day of atonement for the people. Like Yom Kippur, all of our other happy and sad days on our calendar take place on anniversaries, with just one exception and that’s the festival of Sukkot.

You see, the Torah gives the reason for Sukkot as follows: Ki BaSukkot Hoshavti et B’nei Yisrael Be’ Hotzi’i Otam Me’Eretz Mitzrayim. God says: it’s because I caused the Israelites to dwell inSukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. So the right time for Sukkot would be the time when we’re celebrating Pesach. The two festivals actually should be fused into one. Can you imagine having a seder in a sukkah? Hashem wanted to prevent that from taking place!

So, if that’s the case, if He was going to move Sukkot to another time of the year, surely He should have chosen a quiet month where nothing else is happening? We’ve just had the whole month of ElulRosh Hashana, the Ten Days of Penitence, we’re leading now into Yom Kippur and then the Shulchan Aruch tells us that as soon as we’ve broken our fast we start to build the Sukkah. Could Hashem not have given us a bit of a break? Now actually, those who are involved in planning events and programmes will be able to appreciate the reason Hashem had in mind. You see, when it comes to a very important event, what matters most is the follow up. You can have an incredible experience but if nothing follows it, then what was it really all about?

And this is really what we concentrate on, on Yom Kippur. We engage in a day that is filled with prayers, with Cheshbon Hanefesh, with contemplation of where we’re coming from, where we should be going to and then Hashem provides us with an immediate opportunity to translate our dreams into reality, our resolutions into meaningful action and that is why Sukkot, such an incredible opportunity to bond with the creator and to engage with our fellow human beings, comes immediately after Yom Kippur. Let’s remember this lesson when we plan and stage special events and programmes, and let’s remember it as we approach Yom Hakippurim. We’re going to have a very special and precious day, let’s be aware that Yom Kippur in itself is of great importance but what’s more important will be what the day will lead to.

I wish you all tzom kal and a wonderful new year.