Rav Ahron Kotler ztl presented Klal Yisrael with such a beneficial insight concerning the essence and the atonement of Yom Kippur. The Sefer Yetzirah writes of a parallel between three major categories: time, space, and soul. Just as we find that the holiest space on earth was that of the Bais Hamikdash, so to in the category of time, Yom Kippur is the holiest segment of a 24 time period during the year. This parallel between the two, conveys that just as in the Bais Hamikdash there dwelled the Shechinah, so too during this holy time of Yom Kippur the Shechinah dwells amongst Yisrael. This is alluded to by Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim when he writes (139,16) ימים יוצרו ולו אחד בהם Hashem created days and one of them is to Him. The Medrash explains that the one day of the 365 days of the year that belongs to Hashem is Yom Kippur. It means that on this day Hashem dwells amongst Klal Yisrael wherever they are.
In the sefer Yerach Lamo’adim, the author writes that this insight tells us that every second of Yom Kippur has the kedushas Bais Hamikdash. Just as the special avodah in the Bais Hamikdash brought atonement for the sinners, so too the special day of Yom Kippur in essence is a day to easily access kaparah. We find that when one davens he must face towards the Bais Hamikdash because that is from where all the tefillos ascend to heaven, as Yaakov said וזה שער השמים . The reason is because the place of the Bais Hamikdash is where there the Shechina dwells. So too on Yom Kippur it is a day of tefilla being that the day itself is a Bais Hamikdashwhere the Shechinah dwells. Therefore the tefillos of Yom Kippur are higher than any other day of the year since the Shechinah dwells amongst Yisrael like in the Bais Hamikdash.
The Aseres Yemai Teshuva are described by Dovid Hamelech in the passuk דרשו ה’ בהמצאו קראוהו בהיותו קרובseek out Hashem when he is found and accessible; call Him when He is close. Chazal comment that this passuk is referring to the Aseres Yemai Teshuva. However, the last part of the passuk “to call Him when He is close” is specifically referring to Yom Kippur. For as Chazal tell us, the forty days starting at Rosh Chodesh Elul and ending with Yom Kippur are called the Yemmai Ratzon because it was during this time that Moshe Rabbeinu remained on Har Sinai pleading with Hashem not to destroy Yisrael because of their worship of the Aigel Hazahav. On the 40th day which was Yom Kippur Moshe’s tefillos were finally answered and Hashem said סלחתי כדבריך. Therefore the 40th day has the most potent power of tefillah for forgiveness and that is why it is the most special day of the year for tefillah. Tefillah for atonement of sins is meant to be so consuming on Yom Kippur that the Sefer Hachinuch writes that Hashem did not want any distractions from it and for this reason work was prohibited on this day (Mitzvah 317).
How does tefillah change the heavenly decree against an individual? The sefer Haikrim writes that a very devoted tefillah can transform a person into someone totally different. Now he is not the same person upon whom the decree was first placed. In essence the tefillah does not change the decree. Rather it is the changing of the person throughtefillah that changes the decree.
Being so one should not rush his tefillos on Yom Kippur for one will never get during the year such an opportunity of being in this Bais Hamikdash Of Time. It is now alone when one is so close to Hashem and it will make such a difference on his fortune of life, health and prosperity etc. during the coming year. I would give second thoughts for those who cherish and long for that 3 hour break during Yom Kippur if it allows one just to be idle and for sure if it would lead chas veshalam to averios during this most precious time of the year.
To bring out the incredible opportunity of these most valuable hours of the year let us bring the Medrash on the passuk וירח את ריח הניחוח The Torah tells us that when Yaakov Avinu entered his father’s presence disguised as Aisav his father smelled the scent of his בגדיו his clothing, which was similar to the scent of Gan Eden. The Medrash comments on the word בגדיו (clothing) that is could also be read as בוגדיוwhich means traitors. The message conveyed herer is that even the traitors of Hashem possess the scent of Gan Eden such as the case of Yosef Meshisah. The story was that when the Romans came to destroy the Bais Hamikdash they themselves were afraid to enter lest they be stricken by the hand of Hashem. They sought out a Jew who was willing to enter first and promised him the reward to be able to keep any vessel he takes out with him as his own. Yosef Meshisah who was not observant volunteered to enter. He went in and exited with a menorah. When the Romans saw the beautiful golden menorah, they told him that this item he could not keep for it is worthy of an aristocrat. If he would enter one more time they would really give him anything he takes out. Yosef refused adamantly and exclaimed I angered my Master once I will not do it again. When they saw he sudden religiosity, they threatened him that they would punish him if he did not listen to their command. Once again he refused. They barbarically tortured him as he continually screamed Woe to me that I angered my creator, until he died. Concerning his martyrdom the Medrash says that even those who rebel against Hashem possess the scent of Gan Eden.
The Ponivisher Rav ztl asks from where did this sudden religiosity of Yosef Meshisah come? Two minutes before he had the chutzpah to enter the Bais Hamikdash to fulfill the enemy’s wishes and right afterwards he died to sanctify Hashem’s name with teshuva shelaima. The Rav answers that because he entered the Bais Hamikdash, its intense kedushatransformed his entire life. The person who stepped out of the Bais Hamikdash was light years different from the person who stepped in. Where there dwelled Shechinah there dwells the state of nullification to the presence of Hashem in its maximum form. It doesn’t take that long for this transformation from one extreme to the other to take place, even if it takes you from Gehenim to Gan Eden.
The 24 hours of kedushas Yom Kippur is the kedusha of the Bais Hamikdash in time. If you will enter this Bais Hamikdash fully with your body, heart and mind, begging from Hashem through tefillah for forgiveness with your commitment to change your ways, you will leave Motzei Yom Kippur at the sound of the shofar blast as a new creation, totally transformed from what you were when you entered this holy day. One however must truly believe that that this transformation can actually happen. If one believes so then it will happen for sure. The Chiddushei Harim said that this is the explanation why we say on Motzei Yom Kippur in our Shemoneh Esrai the beracha of סלח לנו? Weren’t we just forgiven for all our aveiros on this holy day? He answers that this plea directed to our lack of emunah that we are really forgiven. If we lack the ingredient of full emunah then we also lack the drive and sincerity necessary for a true wholesome teshuvah process. The Chidushei Harim’s explanation is hinted in the passuk ולו אחד בהם that the one day that is Hashem’s is Yom Kippur. The gematria of ולו אחד בהם equals אמונה. A Yid must believe that Yom Kippur is the day when he is closest to Hashem who will forgive him for his aveiros.
We can all be Yosef Meshisas on Yom Kippur if we really want to transform ourselves to be a true eved Hashem. On the day of Yom Kippur Hashem is the closest He can be to us during the year. One just has to make sure that he reflects the same, that on Yom Kippur he is the closest he can be to Hashem.