What should we think about on the night after Yom Kippur?
(Meaning, when you break the fast.)
On the same topic, please see Rav Itamar Schwartz on:
Motza'ei Yom Kippur: Go Eat Your Bread with Joy
What does it really mean when we ask for life for "Your Sake"? (L'ma'ancha Elokim Chaim)
Rav Avigdor Miller on Yom Kippur: Asking for Life
Note #1: It's very worth reading the original at that link. Because of the long summary here, it looks like you're getting the dvar Torah here, but really, so much is missing. Please read the delicious original.
Note #2: All boldface emphasis & words in square brackets  are mine.
YOU are the Prime Witness in a Case of Universal Importance!
Even learning Torah isn't enough if it's only an intellectual exercise.
Rav Miller points out that Yeravam ben Nevat, Achitophel, and Doeg Ha’edomi were all great talmidei chachamim.
Yet they lost their portion in the World to Come.
"So we see it’s possible to be a big talmid chacham and to miss the entire point of doing mitzvos," says Rav Miller.
So what's the solution?
"Atem edai neum Hashem - You are My witnesses, says Hashem."
We, the Jewish people, are Hashem's witnesses.
And what do witnesses do?
They tell the facts of what they see.
Rav Miller elaborates:
And that’s our purpose – we have to speak up about Hakadosh Baruch Hu in the world.
That’s our job, to talk about Hashem. Not only in shul. You have to talk about Him with your family. At the dinner table you must speak about Hashem.
And if nobody wants to listen, they say, “we heard it already”, then talk to yourself; but you must talk.
Print up fliers and spread it in the world. I have beautiful fliers if anybody wants.
Anybody who wants fliers about Hashem, I’ll give them to you for five cents apiece. That’s how much I paid for them. Print a thousand of them as you wish and distribute them.
Why not? אתם עדי, you’re My witnesses.
You have to speak about Hashem!
Who Needs to Sing Hashem's Praises? EVERYONE. No Exceptions.
"This time, I'm going to praise Hashem," said Leah when she named Yehudah, which carries the root for Hashem's 4-letter name, plus the words for "thank" and "confess."
Then Rav Miller points out that Leah's descendant via Yehudah was David Hamelech. And who sang praises to Hashem more than David Hamelech, what with all the Tehillim?
As Rav Miller put it, David Hamelech lived a life of singing songs to Hashem — and that's what Leah Imeinu foresaw when she named Yehudah.
Yes, this is a very special tafkid of the Jewish people, who are mostly from Shevet Yehudah today with a few from the sons of Rachel Imeinu (so says Rav Miller).
But we know from our davening that ki ken chovat kol hayetzurim — singing praises of Hashem is the duty of all those created by Hashem (which is everyone, obviously).
Rav Miller explains:
And the gentile world understand this also.
They used to sing the psalms, the shirei Dovid, in all their gentile places...
What we’re learning now is that everybody in the world has to praise Hashem.
Black people have to spend time praising Hashem. Eskimos must get together and praise Hashem. South Sea Islanders, Chinese, must praise Hashem.
If not, they’re guilty.
How to Achieve that Overflowing Cup
Your cup can overflow. (And that's a good thing!)
First of all, your cup should not have a hole in the bottom.
If it does, then all the Goodness of Hashem gets drained down into that hole.
Secondly, in addition to your hole-less cup, you should allow Hashem's Goodness to keep pouring in.
Rav Miller explains that this is the secret to a happy heart.
Remember the car that almost hit you? Nearly everyone has a story like that. This is mine:
For some reason, rather than crossing the street to get closer to her street, we continued walking on the same side of the road through a gravelly ditch.
We both realized we weren't behaving logically and we kept looking to the other side of the road, knowing we should really be over there.
Suddenly, a car appeared out of nowhere, lost control, and zoomed over the side of the road directly across from us — meaning, the exact place we SHOULD have been.
Without missing a beat, the car righted itself back into its lane and kept on zooming away.
We stared in shock at the place we should have been, then whipped our heads around to look at each other. Then we started exclaiming about the miracle that had occurred.
(Despite us both being relatively secular, we instinctively understood that we'd experienced a miraculous salvation.)
It's also interesting that she was one of the only Jewish students at our elementary school, and that this event occurred to us together.
Thank You, Hashem! Yishtabach Shemo!
I've had that too: the cough that just won't shake, the prolonged back pain, the eternally stuffy nose...and then one day, they're gone!
We're grateful for a moment, then it's life as usual.
But no, Rav Miller emphasizes that we should be REALLY grateful. And then keep on feeling that gratitude.
Furthermore, if there is anything in our body that works right, we must be grateful for it. (Think of the asher yatzar bracha, for example.) It's easy to forget what life would be like if one were dependent on a kidney dialysis machine to clear one's kidneys or on a colostomy to clear one's bowels, may Hashem please keep us all in excellent health.
And once our heart is filled with gratitude & joy, it naturally overflows to others.
What is Our Main Purpose on Yom Kippur?
THIS is what cleanses us from our sins & sweetens our New Year.
In Woman's World: Teshuvah, Rav Itamar Schwartz points out that even the happy mitzvah of eating Erev Yom Kippur is so that we have the koach and focus to pray & nullify ourselves properly on Yom Kippur itself.
Even people who fast so terribly that they must lie in bed rather than pray are nullifying themselves to Hashem. (I'm not talking about life-endangering fasting, which demands drinking or eating, but weakness-inducing fasting.) Yom Kippur is the only fast that makes such demands on people. And that's why: We nullify our bodily desires and our emotional desires to Hashem's Desires.
So on Yom Kippur we bow a lot.
And we speak to Hashem the entire time, whether in formal prayer, formal Confession, or with our own words.
Rav Miller reminds us:
And that’s the argument, the fundamental argument, that everyone should use on Yom Kippur, only he must be aware of the obligation that this entails for him. לא המתים יהללוי-ה, the dead will not praise Hashem, ולא כל ירדי דומה, and not those who go down into silence.
Death is called silence. Why is that?
Death is a lot of things, but is silence the one that is most important?
And the answer is yes, absolutely. Because the dead are not without life. Dead have eternal life, they’re still living.
But they have lost the opportunity to utilize their free will for this great function of singing praises to Hashem.
They have gone down into silence, they’ve lost the gift of speech, a glorious gift.
There's a heavy curtain over the spiritual reality of This World.
So we get tremendous reward for opening our mouths within the darkness underneath that smothering curtain & singing our praise of Hashem.
How to Avoid Korach's Fate
He also reminds us that Korah and his followers believed in Hashem 100%! They also shouted "Na'aseh v'nishma!" And They merited to be among the 20% who left Egypt.
So what happened?
Rav Miller states that even great tzaddikim need to watch out for any tendency toward unhealthy jealousy.
And here's how regular people like us can utilize this idea:
How important it is for all of us to say in this lifetime משה אמת ותורתו אמת [Moshe Emet v'Torato Emet - Moshe is Truth and his Torah is Truth].
Because then, in the cemetery, it’s too late. You’ll realize it then. Absolutely you’ll realize it, but it will be too late.
So people who speak against Gedolei Yisrael, who speak against tzaddikim, have to realize it’s very dangerous business.
Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants us to speak in honor of the Torah, in honor of the Torah leaders.
And we have to be praising all our lives; not only do we praise Hashem but part of the function of תהילת השם [tehilat Hashem] is to praise Hashem’s Torah and to praise the teachers of Torah.
When people get together in synagogues before the prayer begins and they talk among themselves, it’s a moshev leitzim [a gathering of scoffers - from Psalm 1].
Instead of opening a sefer, or at least keeping their mouths shut, they criticize the rabbi, they criticize talmidei chachamim.
That’s Korach! Just like Korach in his generation, they’re Korach in this generation, and they have to be aware of a terrible fate that is waiting for them.
Hashem says you want another year from Me? I want a promise from you that this year is going to be a year of speaking up in My honor, in honor of talmidei chachomim, in honor of the frum Jews – and the more frum, the more praises.
You have to speak in praise of Hashem and His people.
Be a Secret Propagandist for God!
"All of the creatures were created only for one purpose, for kavod Shamayim" (to give honor to Hashem).
Before you go out where you'll meet other people, Rav Miller recommends you do your best to contemplate & answer the following questions (or at least 1 of them):
- What can I do at that time to increase the honor of Hashem?
- What can I say in honor of Hashem?
- What can I say in honor of His Torah?
- What can I say in honor of avodas Hashem (serving Hashem)?
- What can I say in honor of the people who study Torah?
(Personally, I'd assume this applies to writers, speakers, bloggers, etc. as well.)
Rav Miller offers some concrete suggestions which include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Speak in honor of frum Jews.
- Speak in honor of chassidim.
- Speak in honor of Lakewood.
- Speak in honor of Meah Shearim.
- Speak in honor of all the ovdei Hashem wherever they are.
- Speak in honor of talmidei chachamim.
- Speak how good it is to be a medakdeik in mitzvos.
- Inspire people.
- Stand on the street and hand out fliers about avodas Hashem.
Now, because the secular-influenced social norm regarding being all sunny about Jews and Judaism is considered "covering up the truth" and all that, I want to point out that having lived among all types of different frum groups, I can certainly tell you the failings in each group, whether it's according to ethnicity, nationality, or hashkafah.
And unfortunately, there are Jewish media & Jewish websites dedicated to not only pointing out these flaws, but magnifying them & even exaggerating these flaws to the point that they actually LIE (whether by omission or by addition).
It's worth noting that according to the Chafetz Chaim, the actual laws of lashon hara state that even when you are permitted to say lashon hara, you must only do so with the purest of intentions (i.e., no malice or revenge intended) and you must not embellish. There are other conditions too, and each situation needs to be examined individually with expertise in this area of Jewish Law.
But these frum communities also contain tremendous positives.
Sure, if you have to focus on a negative aspect in order to eliminate it, then that's the same as focusing on a stain to cleanse a garment.
But most of the people calling attention to stains within the frum communities don't actually do anything to remove those stains.
(Yes, they CLAIM that's what they are doing with all their calls to action, but please notice that all their declarations & accusations don't actually help things one whit. It's all talk and posturing, even if they sincerely think they're doing something productive. The people who are actually doing good are not screaming about it, but they're getting their hands dirty and scrubbing through the stains.)
So that's why I'm not presenting the negatives. I can daven to Hashem about fixing the negatives, but I'd rather not bellow about them from this blog as if the negatives outweigh the positives.
Anyway, Hashem really doesn't like it when people overemphasize the negative. That's not how a loving Jew behaves.
And even though every person in the world in obligated to praise Hashem, we Jews have been charged with a special mission to praise Hashem.
Each Jew is a special agent of Hashem.
What was So Powerful about the Ketoret?
But in short, the beautiful Ketoret aroma had the power to inspire within a person feelings of love & admiration for Hashem.
And that led to the power of Ketoret, like stopping plagues, and the like.
That's one of the big things we are missing today.
Saying Parshat HaKetoret (found in every Orthodox prayerbook) with heartfelt kavanah can harness some of the power of Ketoret today.
How to REALLY Sweeten Life for Everyone
And that's exactly what merits us a new lease on life.
It's what merits us a sweetening of din.
It's what merits us a better & sweeter year, b'ezrat Hashem.