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Yom Kippur: How can we rejoice when our fate is in the balance?

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How can we rejoice at the very moment when our fate is in the balance?

This is exactly what happens on Yom Kippur. At the very time when, on this great Day of Judgment, Hashem is sealing our fate for the coming year, we have simcha!

Yom Kippur is a Yom Tov because we are optimistic that Hashem will respond to our prayers and bless us with a good new year.

The Chatam Sofer highlights how, when we say our confession on Yom Kippur, when we say, “Ashamnu, bagadnu…” – “We have been treacherous against You God, we have sinned…” – we chant these words in all our shuls with a lovely melody! We are happy, even at that moment. The Chatam Sofer explains that this is because we’re confident that Hashem will respond positively to our prayers.

We need to maintain this sense of joy that we experience on Yom Kippur well beyond this holy day. Rabbi Chaim Volshansky z”l very creatively compared the path that we are on at this time of year to the journey of a spiritual space ship: The month of Elul in which we blow the shofar every day – that’s the count down. On Rosh Hashanah we have lift-off, and on Yom Kippur we reach our destination, the greatest possible spiritual heights. But when it comes to the journey of the spaceship, there is one critical factor that still remains, and that is re-entry.

So many things can go wrong as the spacecraft makes its journey back into the earth’s atmosphere towards terra firma here on earth. And similarly, we need to concentrate as well on what’s going to happen after Yom Kippur, our re-entry back into a normal way of life.

So how do we make our re-entry after Yom Kippur? It’s through the festival of Succot. On Succot we express our continued deep trust in Hashem and our wonderful relationship, a spiritual connection with our Creator, to appreciate the privilege we have to carry out mitzvot but most importantly of all, to rejoice. The prime mitzvah of the festival is:

“Vesamachta bechagecha vehayita ach sameach,” – “You shall rejoice on your festival and you shall be exceedingly happy.”

That rejoicing on Yom Kippur is continued through Succot and from Succot hopefully through to the rest of the year.

So we are indeed joyous on Yom Kippur at the very time when our fate is being sealed for the coming year and, through Succot, that joy will be carried on right through the year. For we shall forever be joyous because of the privilege we have to be Jewish and the daily opportunities we have to carry out the extraordinary mitzvot which enhance and beautify our lives so much.

I wish you all chatima tova, a good fast and a happy new year.

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