By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey
The Yom Kippur Machzor (prayer book) translated into English and the variety of English expressions it incorporates, sometimes resembles a graceful bird of flight, an albatross, clumsily waddling along the ground or a ballerina in an astronaut's suit, on Jupiter! All the more amazing, then, is that there is one word, a key word, that the English language got right. Not just right, but exquisitely right. One could say, even better than the original. And that is "atonement". For this is certainly what Yom Kippur is about in its very essence: A day of "at one-ment."
The Torah speaks about Yom Kippur as a day "once in the year". Of course, that could simply mean it is a unique day, distinct from every other day in all regards. But in a deeper sense, at the core of Yom Kippur lies a theme of "onement" and our act of being there - at that “onement”.
No, you'll tell me, you’ve got it all wrong. "Atonement" is simply the translation of the Hebrew Kaparah -- any act that effects forgiveness, cleanses our soul of the stains it has acquired over the year and allows us and G-d to make up and get on with things. What has that to do with "oneness" or "onement"?
Everything. First of all, because atonement achieves at-onement. When the inner soul of man below and the Essence of Being above, forgive and make up, they are at one, once again.
At-onement achieves atonement. But we must first arrive at “onement”.
The rest of the year we are not at “onement”. Why? Because of the way we see things.
Looks are deceiving. With our fleshly eyes we see ourselves as aliens living in a universe, harshly cold and silent to the drama of emotions and desires, agony and ecstasy, aspirations, failures and achievements that make us human beings. And we don’t see the true essential reality of the world.
But a deeper sense tells us that, deep within this reality and entirely transcendent of it is an essence that resonates with the stirring of our inner hearts. If we have a heart, a mind, a soul, must not the universe also have such? "The One who formed the ear, does He not hear?"
We call that Essence, "G-d." And so, we pray.
All year round we live apart from feeling this Essence. Yes, we have a conscience driving us not to fall out of harmony with it in a sort of pas de deux. We would rather do "this", but there is that other “voice” inside us which says and encourages that we should do "that", which might not be as 100% correct or kosher as ought to be. We fall out of sync.
But on Yom Kippur we embrace and become one with that Essence - within and beyond. And we say to one another, "The dance may be faulty, but the hearts are one and together." All is forgiven. At “onement”.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Tzvi Freeman)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Yom Kippur!