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Kol Nidrei Appeal

09/28/2023 11:30:39 AM

Sep28

Rabbi Yosef Kanefskly

מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֲבותֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקב. הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת כָּל הַקָּהָל הַקָּדושׁ הַזֶּה עִם כָּל קְהִלּות הַקּדֶשׁ. הֵם וּבְנֵיהֶם וּבְנותֵיהֶם וְכָל אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם.  

While we are, every Shabbat, a kehilla kedusha, it always feels all the more so on this unique night. There’s a palpable sense of kedusha in the air, there’s something unique that we see on one another’s faces, in one another’s eyes. There’s a special sound that the davening makes. It’s not just that this is a holy day. We can practically smell and taste the holiness of the kehilla.  

And there is, of course, something ironic about this, because there is no night of the year like this one when we explicitly present ourselves before God as a Kehilla of sinners. We open the viduy with the frank admission: 

אֵין אֲנַֽחְנוּ עַזֵּי פָנִים וּקְשֵׁי עֹֽרֶף לוֹמַר לְפָנֶֽיךָ .... אֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ צַדִּיקִים אֲנַֽחְנוּ וְלֹא חָטָֽאנוּ אֲבָל אֲנַֽחְנוּ וַאֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ חָטָֽאנוּ 

In fact I think that it was actually to ALL of us whom Josh was referring a few minutes ago when he proclaimed that “with the consent of the yeshiva above and the yeshiva below אָֽנוּ מַתִּירִין לְהִתְפַּלֵּל עִם הָעֲבַרְיָנִים  (to include the sinners in our prayer).” And yes it’s true that the Talmudic source that inspired that proclamation directs itself to a community of righteous people, instructing them to specifically include the פושעי ישראל , the sinners of Israel when they fast and pray for rain for example, but Yom Kippur is working off an entirely unique premise.  It is the fast on which we are all the self-proclaimed פושעי ישראל. On Yom Kippur, were sinners not to be admitted, the room would be entirely empty.  

Does it follow then, that despite the unique and rarified spirit in the air, that on this night of all nights we’re not so much a kehilla kedosha? Or might it be that what makes a kehilla holy is not the perfection of each of its members, but something else entirely?  

There’s a brief statement that appears in Bamidbar Rabbah that on its surface is a technical observation regarding the process through which the vessels of the mishkan became kadosh, holy. But I suspect that beneath that surface the Midrash is actually about something much bigger.    

וַיִּמְשַׁח אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן וְאֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר בּוֹ וגו', שׁוֹמֵעַ אֲנִי רִאשׁוֹן שֶׁנִּמְשַׁח הָיָה קֹדֶשׁ, תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר (במדבר ז, א): וַיִּמְשָׁחֵם וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אוֹתָם, מַגִּיד שֶׁלֹא קִדֵּשׁ אֶחָד מֵהֶם עַד שֶׁנִּמְשְׁחוּ כֻּלָּם 

They each became holy only when they all became holy. (No vessel, even though it had been anointed with oil, is holy, until all the vessels have been anointed with oil.) Holiness, we’re being told here, is a team sport. Something that is achieved not individually, but only as a collective. Applying the paradigm of the vessels to ourselves, we understand and recognize that the way that a kehilla becomes a kehilla kedosha is through our joint effort to anoint the heads, to elevate, to lift up, each of our fellow vessels. What generates kedusha is the mutual care with which the community functions, not the spiritual perfection of its individual members.   

Look around this room. And see the people whose heads you have anointed with oil. By comforting them when they were mourning, by attending to their needs when they were sick. By dancing at their wedding, by inviting them to a Shabbat meal in your home. By leining or leading davening in Teen Minyan or Shirat Chana or at the Young Professionals Minyan, or in here.  By teaching Torah or by making the minyan when someone had yahrzeit. See all the people whose heads you have anointed with oil by greeting them with a smile when they walked in here for the first time, by operating the paginator, by working on the holy budget, by helping a lost child find his or her parent, by listening intently when a Bar Mitzvah boy or a Bat Mitzvah girl was delivering their d’var Torah.  We have all been anointing one another’s heads in ways that we are aware of and in ways that may never have occurred to us but are no less real. Our heads are anointed with oil and our cup overflowith. Does each individually have sins to confess, and have repentance to do? Of course. But that has no correlation to how holy this kehilla is. What we’re feeling together tonight is sublimely accurate. And it is what fills us with inspiration and optimism about the work we’ll be doing together over the next 24 hours.  Ashreinu mah tov….  How fortunate we are. How good is our portion.  

I would of course be remiss if I didn’t also mention that we of course also anoint one another’s heads through the financial support that we lovingly provide to our Kehilla, and we’ll take a moment now, as members of our leadership walk through the aisles, to use the holy vessels that are our pledge cards, to help ensure the supply of anointing oil in the year to come.  

... וּמִי שֶׁמְּיַחֲדִים בָּתֵּי כְנֵסִיּות לִתְפִלָּה. וּמִי שֶׁבָּאִים בְּתוכָם לְהִתְפַּלֵּל. וּמִי שֶׁנּותְנִים נֵר לַמָּאור וְיַיִן לְקִדּוּשׁ וּלְהַבְדָּלָה וּפַת לְאורְחִים וּצְדָקָה לָעֲנִיִּים. וְכָל מִי שֶׁעוסְקִים בְּצָרְכֵי צִבּוּר בֶּאֱמוּנָה. הַקָּדושׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יְשַׁלֵּם שכָרָם וְיָסִיר מֵהֶם כָּל מַחֲלָה וְיִרְפָּא לְכָל גּוּפָם וְיִסְלַח לְכָל עֲונָם. וְיִשְׁלַח בְּרָכָה וְהַצְלָחָה בְּכָל מַעֲשה יְדֵיהֶם עִם כָּל יִשרָאֵל אֲחֵיהֶם. וְנאמַר אָמֵן: 

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Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784