Days of Teshuva

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow

Yom Kippur and Purim may seem like two very different holidays, but there is actually a deep connection between them. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a solemn occasion on which we fast and seek forgiveness for our sins. At the same time, Purim is a joyous holiday celebrating the salvation of the Jewish people from a genocidal plot. Despite their differences, both Yom Kippur and Purim are rooted in the same fundamental principle of teshuva, or repentance. The link between these two holidays begins with the story of Purim itself. Villainous Haman of the Purim story, a high-ranking advisor to the Persian king, plotted to exterminate the Jewish people. Haman’s plot was officially authorized when Achashveirosh removed his signet ring and handed it to Haman. What followed was a wholesale teshuva movement by the Bnei Yisrael. The Jewish nation knew what the proper response was, they repented in response to the decree. The Gemara says in Megilla 14a, “Greater (i.e., more poignant) was the removal of the ring (from Achashveirosh to Haman) than (all of the pleading and prodding of) 48 prophets and 7 prophetesses, for all of the prophets and prophetesses could not awaken the Jews to repent but the removal of the ring (jolted them to) return to the proper path.” Indeed, we hope that on Yom Kippur we can attain the same level of teshuva as the nation did during the Purim story. That is one reason offered that Yom Kippur is referred to as Yom HaKippurim, the plural construct. The hint is that we hope that our teshuva on Yom Kippur will be as meaningful as it was back then. Then the day will be Yom KiPurim, meaning a day like Purim. (It was the Arizal who first suggested that Yom HaKippurim is a reference to Purim.)

However, there are other reasons offered why the plural construct is used for name of Yom Kippur. In Nazir, the Gemara offers various scenarios where the term of a Nazir may be truncated. One common issue discussed numerous times is what to do with the Nazir’s sacrifices that he was supposed to offer. It is relevant when the Nazir set aside specific funds or actual animals in anticipation of the conclusion of his nezirus term. The most serious issue is what to do with the animal or funds set aside for the korban chattas. It may not be offered or exchanged. The Gemara likens it to a person who set aside a korban chattas and then passed away. His korban chattas, which is usually brought for atonement, may not be offered. Stated succinctly, there is no atonement after death. However, the Rema cautions us to not take this dictum too literally. The dictum is only true in the context of sacrifices. There really can be atonement even after someone has left this world. The Shulchan Aruch writes (OC 621:6) that on Yom HaKippurim, it has become customary to make vows to give charity in memory of the dearly departed. Whereupon the Rema comments: We also recite Yizkor, because even after someone passed away, one can achieve atonement on Yom HaKippurim. The Mishna Berura (18) comments that this is the reason that Yom HaKippurim is referred to using the plural construct. This is to signify the two categories of people who achieve atonement on Yom HaKippurim: those who are living and those who are not.

Since Yizkor and the accompanying tzedaka vow are so important, they may even be recited at home without a minyan. However, Rav Shlomo Zalman, zt”l, cautions that one should not be lenient if one can come to shul for Yizkor. It is already an established custom to recite Yizkor in shul with a minyan. It must be noted that is very important to make sure one actually fulfills his vow to give charity. If one does not fulfill his vow, then that could be a source of detriment for the neshama. (Kav V’Yashar). The Terumas HaDeshen would not eat anything on the day following Yom Kippur until he fulfilled his charity pledge. The Darchei Chaim V’Shalom (506) writes that one should fulfill his tzedaka pledge immediately on Motzei Shabbos. While being menachem aveil in Far Rockway, a person present recited, “You don’t have to be Rabbi Paysach Krohn to have amazing stories. My daughter called me recently and asked if I fulfilled my tzedaka pledge. I answered that actually I did not and asked her how she knew. My daughter said that she keeps dreaming about her grandmother who asks her about the fulfillment of tzedakah pledges!”  

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow is a rebbe at Yeshiva Ateres Shimon in Far Rockaway. In addition, Rabbi Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead, NY. He can be contacted at ASebrow@

Share this article: