Torah Fax

Friday, September 21 , 2007 - 9 Tishrei, 5767 

Candle Lighting on 9/21 6:37 pm 
Fast Begins: a few minutes before 6:55 PM
Fast Ends (9/22): 7:35 pm

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Eat Fast

The Talmud (Moed Katan 9a) relates that when King Solomon completed the building of the first Holy Temple, they delayed its dedication eleven months until Yom Kippur. The Talmud further relates that the Jewish people continued their celebration that included sacrifices and eating and drinking even on Yom Kippur! King Solomon and the other leading rabbis of that time based the unusual ruling that feasting in celebration of the Temple’s dedication superseded fasting on Yom Kippur on legal proofs from Biblical precedent.

 

The Talmud then relates that following that Yom Kippur of celebration the people felt guilty that they had violated the holy festival by not fasting, until they heard a "heavenly voice" that assured them that they had done no wrong and they were all destined to enjoy the "World to Come."

 

This story is quite puzzling. Their not fasting was not a whim. Neither was it derived from some flimsy legal argument. Rather it was based, as the Talmud asserts, on precedent. Why then should they feel guilty? The Talmud itself answers this question by stating that their argument from precedent was not that compelling to them, and there was a basis to refute it.

 

However, this explanation raises another question. There is a Talmudic principle that though the Torah is Divine, it was given to humans to interpret and apply. This means that even G‑d will not "interfere" with the legal process involved in arriving at Jewish law. If that is the case, how could the heavenly voice assuage their guilt feelings that they had sinned? If their logic was indeed faulty, what good is a heavenly voice? If their logic was sound, why did they feel guilty?

 

One approach to this matter is that the basis for their license to eat on that Yom Kippur is that the holiness and joy that pervaded the dedication of the Holy Temple was so great that eating ceased to be a physical exercise; it was not a contradiction to the fast of Yom Kippur as it would normally be.

 

However, there was one caveat. In order for their eating, at that time, to be considered to be a patently spiritual experience rather than the natural physical one, their intentions had to be totally pure and not in the slightest tainted by the physical desire to eat. And that indeed was the case.

 

However, after Yom Kippur, when they reached an even higher level of spiritual awareness, they began to introspect and they questioned the purity of their own thoughts during the Yom Kippur festivities. "Perhaps," they reasoned, "we harbored a slight physical desire for the food, and we merely convinced ourselves that our intentions were absolutely and purely spiritual." If so, they had no license to break the fast on that Yom Kippur. The license to eat then was not a blanket one, but one that hinged on the purity of their thoughts and innermost feelings that even they were not capable of determining.

 

To allay their gnawing doubts, the heavenly voice declared that their intentions were absolutely and thoroughly righteous; not even a tinge of physical desire entered into their Yom Kippur feast.

 

Hence, the heavenly voice was not deciding a matter of law. While humans and only humans have the license to decide matters of Torah law (based, of course, on the precedents of Torah), G‑d and only G‑d can fathom our most intimate thoughts and know whether they are sincere and pure. G‑d knows us better than we know ourselves.

 

There is a direct application to Yom Kippur, even in our day and age. When we sincerely ask G‑d for forgiveness, we know that G‑d truly fathoms our thoughts and knows if we are genuinely sincere about our contrition for the past and resolve for the future. We therefore ask of G‑d to purify our hearts so that our repentance and return to G‑d will be absolute.

 

And may we merit the dedication of the third Holy Temple on Yom Kippur this year, when we will most likely be permitted to feast as was the case during the dedication of the first Temple. And may we merit to hear the heavenly voice once more resound in our midst telling us that our thoughts are entirely pure and holy and that we will therefore partake of the spiritual delights of the Era of Moshiach. 

 

 

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