December 13, 2018

Seeking Perfect Atonement in an Imperfect World

“Yom Kippur does not come out of the blue. The High Holy Day period extends over ten days, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslav gives a rationale for this bit of maths in a way that transforms our understanding and experience of the day. He states that these ten days correspond to the ten levels of holiness in different parts of the Land of Israel. Yom Kippur, the last and holiest day, is linked to the holiest place.

These ten degrees of sanctity are listed in the Talmud (Kelim 1:6-8). The first extends across the whole of the land, since certain tithes and offerings could be made in biblical times from produce growing anywhere in Israel. The second applies just to walled cities. The third is within the walls of Jerusalem. The fourth is within the Temple that stood on Temple Mount in the centre of Jerusalem. The tenth and last is tiny in size, covering only the few square yards of the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the Temple.

It is curious to note that, the holier a place is, the less people are allowed to go there. Whereas anyone could enter the Land of Israel, only the priests were allowed into the Temple and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies.”

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