One might have expected that the Yom Kippur liturgy would be permeated by the themes of forgiveness, man's iniquity and his inherently precarious status before God on this awesome day of repentance. Yet, this is not at all the case.
Aloh NaalehAloh Naaleh is an organization dedicated to building Aliya motivation among North American Jewry. Torah Thoughts contributed by Aloh Naaleh members appear in the Orthodox Union's Torah Insights publication.
With the exception of the Mussaf liturgy - an integral part of which revolves around the penitential sacrifices of the day and the High Priest's dramatic role in seeking out forgiveness for his and the nation's sins - the general "Al Chait" recital first finds its way into the liturgy in the aftermath of the Amidah. Even on this awesome day, signifying the culmination of the ten-day process of pardon and forgiveness for both the individual and the nation, the essence of our prayers focuses on our longing to return to Zion and Jerusalem. Our eschatological vision is one of national forgiveness and full reunification of God and His people.
Hence, it would seem logical that today, when for the first time in twenty centuries we are fully free to choose to return to Zion, we should feel somewhat uncomfortable reciting the Yom Kippur liturgy if we willingly choose not to participate in the process of the return to our land.
I recently shared this observation with an acquaintance, who responded somewhat kiddingly and uncomfortably, "Well aren't there many things that we say in the 'Al Chait' that we don't really mean?"
Yes, but we are not talking about our individual shortcomings, but rather the essence of our longing and prayers on this Holy Day as formulated by chazal. Do we really not mean these either?
Before making Aliyah, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Sosevsky served as senior instructor of Talmud at Ohr Torah Institute then in Riverdale, New York, and as founding Rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Emunah of Englewood, New Jersey. He is presently Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalim, and served as editor of Jewish Thought; A Journal of Torah Scholarship, published jointly by the O.U. and Ohr Yerushalim.