Topic: Holidays & Time Zones | Posted:September 21, 2015
There is a story in the Talmud Yerulshalmi about Shimon HaTzadik, who was the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol. We know that the High Priest would go into the Holy of Holies and bring the ketoret offerings and make the connection; that was the high point of Yom Kippur. The story is that one year, Shimon HaTzadik came out of the Holy of Holies and told his family, "I know that this year I am leaving this world." They asked him how he knew that and he told them, "Because every year as I entered into the Holy of Holies, I saw a man with a long white beard wearing white clothes enter with me, and everything that I did, he did with me. I would enter with him and he would walk me out. This year, I entered with him and he did not walk me out, and for me that is a sign that this year I am leaving this world."
It says that Rabbi Abahu asks the question, "No person is allowed to be in the Holy of Holies when the High Priest is there, so who could this person be?" He says it cannot be an angel, because even angels are not allowed into the Holy of Holies during the work of Yom Kippur. So, it must be the Creator who took on some sort of human form to be there to do the work of Yom Kippur with Shimon HaTzadik. Then they ask the next question - “No man is allowed to be in the Holy of Holies, but the Kohen Gadol himself is a man, so how is he allowed to be in there?” The answer, they say, and this is a state that each of us can get to on Yom Kippur, is that he became so purified that even his body was no longer a body, it was all soul, and he was like a burning fire as he entered into the Holy of Holies.
Therefore, it is true that no man ever was in the Holy of Holies, because even the High Priest became so pure and elevated that he was not considered a man anymore when he connected in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. The understanding for us - this is again a beautiful and important consciousness to have - is that this is where we can, and are meant to, get on Yom Kippur. We read what is called the work of the high priest, the Avodah of the Kohen Gadol, and we need to understand that in order to get there we have to envision ourselves, at least in some way, connecting to that state of the High Priest entering into the Holy of Holies, where he was no longer a person, where he was so elevated out of the body consciousness of the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, for at least the 24-25 hour period of Yom Kippur. We need to be so elevated out of the consciousness of the body of the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone that we too can enter into the Holy of Holies in the state where we are no longer man, where we are no longer part of the body of the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. That is the first part.
Then, the second part, that Shimon HaTzadik would see the old man doing the work with him. The kabbalists teach that on the eve of Yom Kippur, the night when we say the Kol Nidre, all the souls of those who have left this physical world that are connected to us - some of them who need correction, some of them who are coming to help the connection – are also there with us. The beautiful section in the Zohar speaks about how in addition to the amount of people that are physically there on the night of Kol Nidre, there are many more souls there with us that want us to correct them. And separate from that, there are also souls of tzaddikim that come with us to do the work. So when I hear about the old man who was with Shimon HaTzadik making the connections on Yom Kippur, I envision that it is not just, of course, the Creator, but for us it is also the Rav who, as we enter into the Holy of Holies, is doing the work of Yom Kippur with us.
With these understandings, with this consciousness, with the assistance of the Rav, may we be able to really elevate on this Yom Kippur as we are meant to. Chag Sameach.