I'm Only Going to Say This Once

Sunday, 12 September, 2021 - 9:34 pm


Question of the Week

Why is there so much repetition in the Yom Kippur prayers? We say the silent Amidah prayer and then the Cantor repeats it out loud, and we do this five times. We recite the exact same confession of our sins over and over again - I think it's ten times! My mother used to say: "Listen carefully, I'm only going to say this once!" Can't we say the same and avoid all the repetition?


Yankel bumps into his friend Berel on a street corner. "Yankel! I lent you ten thousand dollars over a year ago. I still haven't seen a cent. When do you plan to pay me back?"

"I'm sorry Berel, but times are tough," answers Yankel. "I can't pay you back. Maybe have some compassion, and forgive me the loan?"

"Forgive you? It's ten thousand dollars!" cries Berel. "I can't say good bye to that amount of money just like that."

"Of course not Berel," laughs Yankel. "You think I expect you to forgive the whole amount all at once? I wouldn't ask you to do that. You can do it in installments. This month forgive a thousand, next month a thousand, and before you know it, it's all gone. I don't mind, I can wait."

Everything is easier in installments. We can't just overhaul our spiritual life in an instant. It is a process. Over the course of a year, we have accumulated layers of dust on our souls. On Yom Kippur we become cleansed. But like all true growth, it happens incrementally.

The cleansing starts in the evening with Kol Nidrei, and continues throughout the day of Yom Kippur, reaching its climax with the closing Neilah service. As we go through each stage, reciting the prayers and fasting, another layer of dust is removed from our hearts, another blockage to our soul is cleared.

This is not repetition. It's is not the same you saying the prayers each time. The deeper you go into the day, the deeper your prayers become, and the deeper the cleansing. As your soul starts to shine, your desire to go higher increases, and so your prayers become more intense. You are more forgivable, so you can ask for more forgiveness. 

Yankel had a great idea. You can ask forgiveness in installments. Before you know it, the whole debt disappears, and your soul is clean. Your bank manager may not like Yankel's idea. I'm not sure Berel did either. But G-d loves it.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

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