Messiah in Yom Kippur Chapter 4

  1. The requirement of Fasting
  2. The prohibition of using Leather Footwear
  3. The prohibition of washing and bathing
  4. Reconcile with those you are indebted to first, then go before Adonai
  5. Five steps to a proper apology and relational healing

The requirement of Fasting:

All adults over the age of bar or bat mitzvah fast. This includes pregnant and nursing women. Healthy children are educated to fast for a short amount of time, starting from the age of nine. They are not allowed to eat after sundown on the eve of Yom Kippur and their breakfast is usually slightly delayed. Fasting on Yom Kippur is considered of utmost importance. However, someone who is ill, a woman who has recently given birth, an individual who needs to take medication, or a person of advanced age who finds it difficult to fast should consult with a doctor and put the direction of their physician first, before the need to fast: Preservation of life and health is more important than fasting.

The prohibition of wearing Leather Footwear:

The tradition is to not wear shoes or slippers if they contain any leather at all. The prohibition applies to footwear only. Wearing a leather belt, kippah, or jacket is not a problem.

The prohibition of washing and bathing:

There is a prohibition against washing or bathing and this applies to even to washing only part of one’s body. However, there are exceptions to this rule even among the orthodox. These are:

Rule #1. It is permitted to wash hands upon exiting the lavatory;

Rule #2. It is permitted to wash any area of the body that has become soiled;

Rule #3. Upon awakening in the morning, one performs the ritual hand washing—but washes only until the knuckles.

Rule #4. Before they administer the Priestly Blessing, the priests’ hands are ritually washed in the normal fashion.

Rule #5. It is permitted to wash one’s hands before handling food. Someone who needs to bathe or wash for health reasons should consult a rabbi.

Reconcile with those you are indebted to first, then go before Adonai:

כִּֽי־בַיֹּום הַזֶּה יְכַפֵּר עֲלֵיכֶם לְטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם מִכֹּל חַטֹּאתֵיכֶם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה תִּטְהָֽרוּ׃

[Asking Forgiveness:] “For on this day [Yom Kippur] He shall effect atonement for you to cleanse you. Before the Adonai you shall be cleansed from all your sins” (Leviticus 16:30).

“On Erev Yom Kippur, every man shall set his heart on appeasing (making amends and restitution with) everyone against whom he has transgressed, for the expiation of sins between man and the Almighty occurs on Yom Kippur, but those between man and his fellow, are not forgiven on Yom HaKippurim until he has appeased his fellow (or otherwise has made a sincere and honest attempt to make amends and restitution with those who have been transgressed.). This is true, even if he has only harmed him verbally” (Tur Shulchan Aruch, O”Ch 606).

לָכֵן אִם־תַּקְרִיב קָרְבָּנְךָ אֶל־הַמִּזְבֵּח וְזָכַרְתָּ כִּי־יֵשׁ לְאָחִיךָ דְּבַר רִיב עִמָּךְ׃ הַנַּח שָׁם אֶת־קָרְבָּנֶךָ לִפְנֵי הַמִּזְבֵּח וְלֵךְ כַּפֵּר אֶת־פְּנֵי אָחִיךָ וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן בּוֹא הַקְרֵב אֶת־קָרְבָּנֶךָ׃

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering (gift) there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering (gift).”

We must make multiple attempts to make amends and restitution with those we are indebted to, those who we have offended. Before completing our acts of charity or approaching the Holy One to ask Him for forgiveness on the holy day of Yom Kippur, we should first approach any individual whom we may have wronged and seek their forgiveness. This applies whether the offense was physical, emotional, or financial (in which case, seeking forgiveness is in addition to making appropriate monetary restitution).

שְׁמַעְתֶּם כִּי נֶאֱמַר וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ וְשָׂנֵאתָ אֶת־אֹיְבֶךָ׃ וַאֲנִי אֹמֵר לָכֶם אֶהֱבוּ אֶת־אֹיְבֵיכֶם (בָּרֲכוּ אֶת־מְקַלְלֵיכֶם הֵיטִיבוּ לְשׂנְאֵיכֶם) וְהִתְפַּלֲלוּ בְּעַד (מַכְאִיבֵיכֶם וְ) רֹדְפֵיכֶם׃ לְמַעַן תִּהְיוּ בָנִים לַאֲבִיכֶם שֶׁבַּשָׁמָיִם אֲשֶׁר הוּא מַזְרִיחַ שִׁמְשׁוֹ לָרָעִים וְלַטּוֹבִים וּמַמְטִיר עַל־הַצַּדִּיקִים וְגַם עַל־הָרְשָׁעִים׃

“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

In addition, those of us who have been offended should attempt to be extra-forgiving and strive to achieve peace and goodwill with others; even those who have been our enemies. If someone who requires forgiveness fails to request it, therefore, it is still worthwhile to forgive him. This is especially important because before we approach the altar of the Holy One on Yom Kippurim to offer sacrifice and receive forgiveness, it is required that we first sincerely attempt to make amends and restitution with all those persons whom we have transgressed against. In addition, it is equally important that we forgive those who have transgressed against us; otherwise how could we ever expect the Almighty to extend to us His mercy and forgiveness when we are unwilling to do so with others.

Five steps to a proper apology and relational healing:

Just as the offending individual is enjoined to sincerely seek forgiveness, so, too, the victim is expected to wholeheartedly forgive: provided he is assured that the plea for forgiveness is indeed sincere. It is proper to specify the wrongdoing for which you are seeking forgiveness; except when doing so would cause further embarrassment to the victim. In the language of apology, the major emphasis for responsibility is placed on the offender.  The offending party is to vigorously pursue and skillfully engage in effective attitudinal, behavioral and relational change.  Proper apology fosters healing in the offended and the offender.  An effective healing process is required to ensure the continual regeneration and sustenance of relationships.  A lack of proper apology assures relationships become sick and even die. A proper apology (request for forgiveness) may require as many as *five steps to healing. These are:

Step #1.  “I am Sorry” (Expressing Regret).

Step #2.  “I was Wrong” (Accepting Responsibility).

Step #3.  “What can I do to Make it Right?” (Making Restitution).

Step #4.  I’ll try not to Do that Again” (Genuinely Repenting)

Step#5.  “Will you Please Forgive me?” (Requesting Forgiveness).

This necessarily requires the exercise of:

Step #1.  Empathy – Empathy involves experiencing the hurt of the injured party as if it were one’s own.  It evokes the words, “I am sorry.”

Step #2.  Moral Honesty – Moral honesty is the opposite of self-defensive denial.  It embraces vulnerability.  It is self-correcting.  It is truth affirming, not self-glorifying.  Moral honesty declares, clearly and succinctly, “I was wrong.”

Step #3.  Restorative Justice – Restorative justice is a sincere attempt to repair the damage the violation has caused.  This requires the injured party be asked by the one who has hurt them, “What can I do to make things right?”

Step #4.  Definitive Behavioral Change – Definitive behavioral change ensures the offensive behavior is not repeated.  Engagement in a regular, continuous process of retraining ensures the offender exercises heightened sensitivity toward and sustained vigilance against future offenses.  This concerted effort is represented in the committed statement, “I’ll try not to do that again.”

Step #5.  Relational Accountability – Relational accountability involves sharing power in the relationship.  The injured party is empowered, not manipulated or controlled. It requires the offending person ask the injured party, in a humble, contrite, respectful tone, “Will you please forgive me?”

*The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your
Relationships (Northfield Publishing, 2006).

Messiah in Yom Kippur Chapter 5 >>