Rabbi Yossi's Blog

Welcome to Rabbi Yossi's Blog; where you can expect to find thoughts on current events, Torah learning and Jewish spirituality. And of course, some good Jewish humor.



Yom Kippur. Everyone has a different association. Some focus on the fasting, others on forgiveness. For some, it’s a matter of spending much longer than they’d rather in the synagogue. 

Personally, I find it to be a profound and extremely meaningful holiday.

How can Yom Kippur be meaningful, you wonder? I’d happily share my thoughts in person, but suffice it to say that if you’d like to appreciate it too, you need to tune in. Radio waves are everywhere, but without a device; a radio that is tuned in, you will be completely oblivious to the music.

On Sunday night we will gather and hear the Kol Nidrei solemnly intoned by the chazzan (cantor). Many people in the room will close their eyes and sway, others will furrow their brow in deep concentration. Between the haunting tune and the reaction of the crowd, you would imagine that this prayer, “Kol Nidrei,” the one that sets the tone for the entire Yom Kippur, would be a truly profound and moving prayer. Yet, when you turn your attention to the English translation you will find that it’s more or less a technical statement that “the vows that I make shall be null.”

Is that the best we’ve got? Is that all we could come up with to begin Yom Kippur??

As always, when we dig a little deeper we find treasures:

The prayer begins with the words “Kol Nidrei V’esorei” - “All vows and prohibitions.” Hebrew is a very precise language, and therefore often a word can have a different connotation depending on the context. “Kol Nidrei V’esorei.” The word “V’esorei” in this context can mean “that which binds me.”

When Yom Kippur begins, we turn to G-d and we say: We are letting go - we are no longer allowing ourselves to be defined by the limitations, habits and choices we’ve lived with in the past.

When we communicate our choice to disengage from the negative bonds that constrain us, we pray to G-d that He, too, not treat us in the limited fashion that may be in store for us; rather we ask that the bonds and limitations be removed and that we truly be blessed with a great New Year!

Yom Kippur is about unleashing ourselves from our limited self view and allowing us to view ourselves from G-d’s perspective, with unlimited potential.

Does 9/11 make a difference to you?

  WTC Tribute in Light Square.jpg

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing and I’m sure you do too. For all of us who were old enough at the time, 9/11 will never be forgotten. 

The question is, so what? So what if we will never forget the events of that morning? Does it truly make any real difference to us?

While there are many emotions and thoughts associated with 9/11, I think that one important takeaway - relevant to all of us - is that each of us can literally change the world. 

Think about it: a group of 19 young individuals, driven by hatred and misplaced religious zeal, hell bent on destruction, were able to detrimentally alter the course of history. Their cause was and remains wrong and downright evil, but they had one thing that enabled them to succeed in their nefarious mission - a deep commitment to their misguided cause.

Imagine what we can accomplish with our commitment to a just and holy cause. Imagine what we can achieve if we deeply commit ourselves to our cause - making this world a G-dly place and encouraging those around us to do the same.

If they can succeed in their mission of destruction, we can surely succeed in our holy work. It’s time for each of us to be leaders in our own lives and positively alter the course of history. 

If so few people could cause so much harm, imagine how much good we all could accomplish!

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