Shabbat Shabbaton

by Morris Dweck
Yom Kippur 2007


"For on this day does He give you protection, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the Lord." Leviticus 16:30
Having a day that cleanses all of our sins definitely sounds like a good deal to me. But we can’t simply give some sins to a fish or a chicken and just let Yom Kippur cleanse the rest. So how is it that we can cleanse our souls on this day?

Yom Kippur like everything else in Judaism is surrounded by ideas. Judaism is a system of ‘Naaseh Venishmah’ (we will do and we will listen). If the actions themselves were the essence then it would just say Naaseh. But Nishmah is our goal, which today can only be reached through the Naaseh. Every action in Judaism has ideas at its essence, including Yom Kippur. Mitzvoth aren’t actions done to please God. God is perfect and unchanging and our actions do not affect him. The Mitzvoth are actions designed by God to aid man. Man as an intellectual being must strive to understand the mitzvoth in order to benefit and change himself. If one possesses all of the ideas behind the mitzvoth he will ultimately be lead to the perfection of his soul.

So what are the ideas surrounding Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is known as day of ‘Shabbat Shabbaton’. Shabbat is a day in which we rest from work. We do this to express the idea that God, the creator, controls everything and in truth we control nothing because we are dependent on the existence of God. ‘Shabbaton’ refers to the extra rest, in which we rest from indulging in pleasures as; eating, leather shoes, washing hands and anointing oils. This extra rest is supposed to remove our minds from the physical world of pleasures and allow us to focus in on our nature.

But what exactly is Mans Nature? Man is the only animal which has the ability to think abstractly. Animals think instinctively and can be trained based on their individual instincts. Mans ability to think “outside the box” is what gives him his edge. It is this intellectual ability which is our Neshama. This spiritual, intellectual part is mans unique essence. Judaism is the struggle between the two sides of man. The goal of the mitzvoth is to remove man from his instinctual, animalistic side and bringing him to his spiritual, intellectual side.

‘Shabbat Shabbaton’ is the formula for our Teshuva. When we remove ourselves from the world of physical indulgences, we remove ourselves from the world of sins. Furthermore, by focusing in on our essence, our Neshama, our spiritual intellectual side, we nurture our relationship with our creator and allow ourselves to be cleansed.

© Kol Israel Congregation