Yom Kippur, one of the Jewish people's holiest days, completes the "Ten Days of Repentance" which begin on Rosh Hashanah. The verse that the Rabbis use to describe these days is "Search for G‑d while He can be found, call upon Him when he is near." (Isaiah 55:6, cited in Tractate Rosh Hashanah 18a) They explain that G‑d is close to every Jew during these days. This knowledge and innate feeling helps each person make a greater effort to come even closer to G‑d. During each of the Ten Days, this energy grows until it reaches its height on Yom Kippur, bringing us to the level of "face to face" with G‑d, a level of connection that lasts an entire year. This lofty level is akin to the level that Moses reached on Mt. Sinai, when he received the second tablets of the covenant.

The Ten Days of Repentance give us the ability to reach the deepest depths of our soul….

It is a custom of the Ari, the great Kabbalalist of Safed, to add Psalm 130 to the liturgy each day immediately before the Shema and its blessings in the morning service. This Psalm begins with the words, "A song of ascents, out of the depths have I called you, G‑d. My Master, listen to my voice, may Your ears hear my calls for grace". The simple meaning of the verse is that a person calls out to G‑d from the depth of his pain and difficulties. The inner dimension of the verse requires from us something more: "Out of the depths" refers to a level of consciousness attainable by every Jew, that through our concentration and effort, we call to G‑d from our innermost place, the depths of our soul.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Chabad explains that the word for "depths" should be "me'amukim" - literally "from the depths". The Psalmist's use of the word "ma'amakim" - literally "from those who make depth" - infers action, like someone digging even deeper into his soul, past all of the facades, to a place of inner eternal truth. If you want to guarantee that your call is going to be heard, it must come from this place. The Ten Days of Repentance give us the ability to reach the deepest depths of our soul.

The Baal Shem is quoted as having once asked, "How can we have the audacity to imagine that if we pray, G‑d is going to change the order of Creation and accede to our requests?" He answered that each person gets a stream of blessings from heaven; a person's negative actions can cause those blessings to be reduced or blocked. When a person prays from the depth of his soul, digging deep, opening himself up, something changes in the person himself (!), altering him entirely. The Heavenly Court can then remove those blockages. The decrees that caused the blessings to be cut off no longer apply because, through prayer, that person has been transformed into someone else.

Do not let the Ten Days of Repentance pass without taking advantage of this closeness to G‑d.

May you and yours be sealed for a good and sweet new year, Rabbi Shaul Leiter

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