It is well known that Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. As a result of our teshuvah (return to the proper way) and our self afflictions, as well as our having asked forgiveness from all those we have wronged, we pray that Hashem will forgive us for all of our sins.
Once the shofar blows and the day ends, we sing “Next Year in a Rebuilt Jerusalem” with the joy that comes with knowing that Hashem has forgiven us. We then immediately pray the evening service. Like all services, the central element is the Amidah, which includes the request that Hashem forgive us for our sins.
The question is obvious. We have just finished Yom Kippur when Hashem forgives us. Why must we already again ask His forgiveness? What could we have possibly already done wrong before even leaving the synagogue?
One common answer is that at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, we have attained an incredibly high level of spirituality. Therefore, even the slightest failure to live up to Hashem’s expectations is indeed a sin for which we must atone. Perhaps we have already had an improper thought, said something inappropriate, or simply didn't pray the first part of the evening service with proper care and concentration.
There is another answer that could also be offered. Perhaps during Yom Kippur itself, we made commitments that we had no intention of honoring. Perhaps we only gave “lip service” to doing better. And now that Yom Kippur is over, we have every intention of breaking the fast and engaging in business as usual. And if this is the case, we must ask Hashem’s forgiveness.
It could be that the greatest example of this is what we said as Yom Kippur finished. “Next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem!”
Do we really want to go? Do we want to leave our homes in our fat and happy exile and go to Yerushalayim? Even if we might not be able to go now, do we at least want to go home to our Holy City in our Homeland?
And do we want it to be rebuilt in all its glory? Do we want for the Temple Mount to be fully in our hands? Do we long for the Holy Temple to be rebuilt? Do we want Hashem to allow us to again offer sacrifices to Him?
If the answer is “no,” then we not only have misplaced priorities, we have concluded Yom Kippur by publicly proclaiming our desire for something we do not really want — but should. Therefore, we must indeed ask Hashem’s forgiveness.
On this Yom Kippur, may Hashem grant us — and all of klal Yisrael — forgiveness for our sins. May He seal all of us in the Book of Life. May we make commitments and seek to honor them. And may one of those commitments be a sincere desire to go home to a rebuilt Yerushalayim.
Rabbi Shmuel Jablon is the menahel (principal) of Torah Academy, a past member of the Rabbinical Council of America’s Executive Committee, and the host of www.rabbijablon.com .