Yom Kippur 5771: Kohanim and the Jews; Do the Jews Measure Up as Paradigm for Mankind?

by Moshe Burt

The Mussaf portion of any prayers; Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh, Shabbos represent the essence, the main point of that day.

On Yom Kippur, the essence of the service, the ikar is the avodah of the Kohen Godol. So much so is this the case that the Mussaf service centers around the order of the Kohen Godol’s service in the Kodosh Kodoshim (the Holy of Holies in the Beit HaMikdash). The service includes all of the preparations which the Kohen Godol makes prior to the service, the clothing he must wear at each step of the avodah, the number of times that the Kohen must bathe himself prior to each change of clothing and before each step of his service, the drawing of lots determining which goat is for Hashem and which for The Mountain of Azazel (the goat designated by lot to bear the burden of death to rectify B’nai Yisrael’s sins) and more. And by virtue of our being Hashem’s “most favored nation”, The Kohen Godol is to the Jews a paradigm of Hashem’s blueprint L’Chat’chila (the way things should be), of what the Jews are to represent to the other nations of Mankind.

Just as the Kohen Godol will be the Kli in praying for forgiveness of sin when we will again have the Beit HaMikdash, the Kohanim are the Kli of the Avodah of Tefillah, of prayer, both for service to Hashem and for conveying Divine Brachot upon B’nai Yisrael in our times in Galut when we still lack our Beit HaMikdash. By extension, the role of B’nai Yisrael, of all of us, is to be emulate the role of the Kohanim for Am Yehudi, to be as Priestly to the gentile world, to be examples of upright morality, closeness to Hashem rather than a factionalized, equivocating, hypocritical, anti-Torah, disunified group.

This author recalls the times, over 62 years, when gentiles expressed to me pride and admiration for an Israel which didn’t quake, quiver or waver before an Arab foe bent on her destruction, that she did what she had to do to defeat the foe decisively and totally. It is still recalled how, while in traffic court fighting a ticket on the Eve of the first Gulf War, that a gentile policemen came and asked that we Jews pray for America in that war.

But sometime in the past few generations, particularly over the past 20 years, we looked the other way regarding our Brothers’ matzav, we forgot Torah and abandoned HaKodosh Borchu as was stated in Parsha Vayeilech (Sefer Devarim, Perek 31, posuk 16);

Hashem said to Moshe. “When you go and lie with your ancestors this nation will rise up and stray after the [false deities] of the land into which they are coming. They will thus abandon Me and violate the covenant that I have made with them.”

And so it is that many today have forgotten Torah; have forgotten why there is an Eretz Yisrael, why it was given to the Jews for all time, why it is that we are living here now, why the land laid totally fallow in the years that our aveirot brought Hashem to banish us from it and how it is that Eretz Yisrael has thrived and flourished ONLY upon our return. We are blinded and forgetful, even now — over 5 years later, to the fact of how Jews returned to Gaza making it bloom and how, after the expulsion, Gush Katif is nothing like the beautiful, flourishing place that it was when 9,000 Jews lived, worked and davened there — and worked the land.

And so, uncomfortable Jews question:

“…whether Hashem created us or whether we conceived of him.” (Excerpt from “On Jews and Judiasm”, Selected articles of Rabbi Meir Kahane, “The Ultimate Axiom” January, 1978)

And there are these words:

“K’rachaim av al banim, kain Tirachem aleinu…” Like the mercy of a father on children, may You (G-d) have mercy upon us… [Liturgy] On Yom Kippur, despite our sins which may be as dark as the night, we need to remember that Hashem (G-d) loves us infinitely and is waiting to hear our prayers and give us what we need. Hashem waits for us, for Am Yehudi with open arms to lovingly receive us, just as a parent will always yearn for a child to return. (Ideas taken in part from weekly D’var Torah: Yom Kippur put out on an email several years ago by Rabbi Baruch Lederman, Congregation Kehillas Torah, San Diego, CA)

Undoubtedly, not many Gentiles can admire an Israel whose anti-Torah, anti-Jewish governance quakes before the nation’s existential enemies, rejects all connection to Hashem and Torah, shamefully turns their backs on their every ally; from Jonathan Pollard, to the South Lebanese Christians, to the Druse, to the Arabs who literally risk life and limb to supply intelligence to the IDF, to allies in the U.S. Congress. Not many Gentiles can admire a morally hypocritical Israel, perceived based on such governance; as cowardly, as utterly lacking in national pride and self-image and giving away its land as but “another piece of real estate” — cow-towing to the “bishop” , seemingly in dread submission to super-power pressure. But in truth, this feigned submission disguises the true aims of Israel’s governance, bureaucracies, institutions, universities and media; to erase, expunge and eradicate anything Jewish from the Israeli soul — national security and survival be damned. And so, Israel’s governmental leaders shake and quiver before a “Goldstone Report” and send soldiers with paint-guns to confront armed terrorists on a flotilla. In no way should moral hypocracy and bankrupcy be a paradigm of the Jews to be viewed by mankind when we ought to project as “a light unto the nations.”

May we pour our hearts out to Hashem on Yom Kippur with purity and deep sincerity leaving “nothing in the lockerroom” on a national level as well as individuals. May Hashem grant us a happy, healthy and sweet new year, a new year where a Jewish governance of national pride and self-image replaces the current shameful state of Israeli governance. As Rabbi Moshe Ungar would always say before a fast back in Philly, back in the “old country”, “Daven hard, fast easy” — Tefillah Kasher V’Tzom Kal!

But as we daven, we need all keep in mind the the words of this golden oldie:

Private Eyes are watchin’ you… watchin’ you, watchin’ you, watchin’ you! Private Eyes!

As Yom Kippur approaches, may we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos! L’Shana Tova!

Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.