Rabbi Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam (1905-1994) was the founding Rebbe of the Sanz-Klausenberg chassidic court. A Holocaust survivor, Rav Halberstam established various organizations dedicated to rebuilding Torah learning after the war. He spoke frequently about the importance of studyingTalmud and even stated that the essence of chassidus is to learn Gemara, something quite unusual for a Chassidic rebbe. More than fifteen different, multi-volume works of Rav Halberstam on Halakha and Chassidut were published posthumously including seven volumes of responsa under the title Divre Yatziv.
In this piece, the Divre Yatziv discusses whether the practice of prostrating ourselves on Yom Kippur during the recitation of the service of the High Priest should be limited to places where there is a torah scroll present (as is the case for tachanun during a weekday tefillah). In order to answer, he considers two explanations for why we prostrate ourselves. One is that we simply fall on our faces in awe of the explicit name of God that would be invoked by the High Priest during the time of the Temple. According to this reason, the prostration doesn’t represent any personal request (which is the essence of tachanun) and therefore does not demand a torah scroll. The other explanation is that we prostrate ourselves while recounting our sins at the moment that God’s name is invoked. According to this, the prostration is actually a plea for forgiveness and essentially identical to tachanun recited during weekday tefillah thereby requiring the presence of a torah scroll. Ultimately, he concludes that most communities identify with the first reason, and therefore, one should prostrate even if there is no Torah scroll. This is how most of our communities practice this custom but this year, it is also worthwhile to also keep the second reason in mind.
On Yom Kippur it is easy to differentiate between the prayers for national atonement and those for personal atonement. The recitation of the service of the High Priest can be understood as one long petition for the resumption of Temple worship, and therefore it appears to be a clear example of praying for national atonement. Personal atonement will be dealt with later. When we fall on our faces remembering how the High Priest used to invoke God’s name, we pray, it seems, to be forgiven as a nation, to have our Temple rebuilt, and to hear the divine name again. In that moment, we focus on the sins of the nation and our personal sins are briefly forgotten.
Rav Halberstam’s second explanation for why we bow down rejects this approach. The very moment when we hear God’s name recited by the High Priest is not just about the nation but also the moment when we should be thinking of our personal sins. There is no differentiation between national and the personal atonement. Our sins mingle with everyone else’s to form the sins of the nation. When we fall on our faces, we pray thatGod should not only return the Temple service on behalf of the nation but also forgive us each, individually, in that moment.
This Yom Kippur, in small, socially distanced minyanim, scattered amongst communities, it behooves us to remember that our personal atonement is always wrapped up with the atonement of the nation. And that we fall on our faces not just in hope that the Jewish people will receive atonement, but that our families, and small scale communities should as well. Each small atonement joins the whole to create the national atonement.
|שו”ת דברי יציב חלק אורח חיים סימן עד|
ולענ”ד עוד יותר, כיון דהכריעה הוא לזכר להכהנים והעם שהיו עומדים בעזרה, עיין בטור שם בסימן תרכ”א ובב”י ובד”מ שם אות ו’ מהמרדכי שאנו עושין לזכר, ושם היה וידוי, ועיין בתוי”ט יומא פ”ו מ”ב בד”ה והכהנים והעם עיי”ש, ובתוס’ חדשים שמה אי אכולהו קאי עיי”ש, ועיין אבות פ”ה מ”ה, עומדין צפופין ומשתחוים רווחים, וברע”ב שלא ישמע את חבירו כשהוא מתודה ומזכיר עוונותיו, וכ”ה ביומא דף כ”א ע”א ברש”י בד”ה משתחוים עיי”ש…
ובפשיטות נראה הכי, ששם במשנה בדף ס”ו ע”א, וכך היה אומר אנא השם ותיכף היה הך והכהנים והעם וכו’, והכה”ג היה אומר אז עוו פשעו וכו’, וא”כ היו מתוודים אז, ועיין בטו”ז סי’ קי”ג סק”ד. ואפשר דלהכי רק שם במשנה נזכר הך דוהכהנים והעם, דאז היו מתודים העם בשעת השתחויה, ומיושב מ”ש בתוס’ חדשים הנ”ל ודו”ק, ורק אחר שהתודו העם, דעליה קאי חטאו עוו וכו’, אמרו בשכמל”ו, ולא קודם דהוי כבוצע ברך וכו’ ודו”ק…
ועכ”פ לענינינו לגבי ס”ת, נראה דתליא אי עבדינן הכריעות ביוה”כ שחל להיות בשבת, על כרחך דאין לזה עם נפ”א וענין אחר לגמרי ורק משום הזכרת השם, ולא בעי נגד הס”ת, אבל להנ”ל דבשבת לא שעיקרה משום הוידויים, ענינה כמו נפ”א, ובעי נגד הס”ת כהרוקח ודו”ק…
|And while I was on the subject, I investigated whether the prostrations we do on Yom Kippur requires the presence of a torah scroll… In my opinion, since the prostration is in memory of the priests and the nation who stood in the Temple courtyard… and (when they would prostrate), they would confess (their sins)… And only after the nation confessed… would they say “Blessed be God’s holy name for ever” and not before because it would be as though (they blessed in the midst of sinning and the Torah tells us “one who sins and blesses, curses God”(Psalms 10:3).|
In any case, in our discussion of the torah scroll, it depends whether one does the prostrations when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat. It must be that this (bowing on Yom Kippur) has no (similarity) to our daily prostation (during Tachanun) and it is a totally different matter, it is only because of the mentioning of God’s name. And it does not need to be in the presence of a torah scroll. But according to (what we’ve written) above, that you do not (prostrate yourself) on Shabbat, because the essence is the confessions, its meaning is similar to the prostrations of tachanun, and we only do them in the presence of a torah scroll.
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