When the day of fasting and contrition was nearly over, after all the prayers had been exhausted, the pages now wet with the hot tears yearning for forgiveness, for blessings of life and redemption, the Rebbe turned towards the congregation. His face covered with the tallit, he began to sing a traditional, triumphant melody. Soon thousands of voices joined in the singing. In those few exalted moments, one achieved a catharsis beyond anything that the fasting and praying of Yom Kippur produced. And then, the shofar was sounded.
Yom Kippur, the most sacred and solemn day of the year, is not traditionally associated with joy. On this Day of Atonement and Judgment, the Divine blessings of life, health, children and prosperity hang in the balance as Jewish people immerse themselves in prayer and introspection. The day draws to a close, and the Shema is recited aloud to private reflections. And then, in a tradition learned from the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory, a stunning denouement of joy.
In its efforts to make the Divine known, Chabad-Lubavitch has always worked with joyful enthusiasm. Chasidic thought situates spiritual growth in joy; unqualified, inner joy, exemplified by the legendary giants of Chasidic lore, is the requisite condition for transcendence, and ultimately, for communion with the Divine.
Confident that the prayers of Am Yisrael will be heard on High, sanguine that G-d will respond with forgiveness and blessings to the individual and collective prayers of our people, a joyful spirit prevails. No sooner does Yom Kippur end that we prepare to share with others the festive holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah—the most joyful days on the Jewish calendar. With the optimism of Yom Kippur’s forgiveness, our rabbis and students take hammer and nail in hand, and begin constructing Sukkahs at each of our thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch centers serving Jewish communities around the world.
This year, may the sanctity and joy of Yom Kippur make itself felt in your daily routine. May your Yom Kippur prayers be answered, and may you be inscribed and sealed for a good, sweet and joyful year.
Yom Kippur begins prior to sundown, today, Sunday, October 1, and ends after nightfall tomorrow, Monday October 2. Please check your local calendar for specific times.