Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Erev Yom-Kippur: Turning a NEW PAGE!

by GYE (See all authors)

We all do/did the Minhag of Kaparos on Erev Yom-Kippur or in the days preceding it. One may ask... before Yom Kippur, we immerse in the Mikvah and supposed to be all clean and dressed in white. So why do we need to get all dirty with the smelly chickens and watch the blood and filth as the Shochet slaughters them, right before Yom-Kippur?

The purpose of Kapparos - and indeed the proper way to do Teshuvah - is to be humbled and broken hearted by remembering our feebleness and how temporary we are. As we say in the Vidui on Yom-Kippur: "Afar Ani Bechaya'i, Kal Vachomer Bemisasi" - I am dust in my life, and much more so in my death. And like it says in this week's Parsha Ha'azinu - "Ani Amis Va'chayeh, Ve'ein Miyadi Matzil" - I put to death and give life, and there is no being saved from my hand. Everyone will die. Doing Kapparos with the chickens, seeing and "feeling" the trembling chickens, smelling the filth and watching the slaughter, we are forced to remember that our bodies are not different than the chicken's. And indeed, when doing the Kapparos we are saying that we should have been slaughtered in place of the chickens. We are the same flesh and blood and we experience the same life and death, dust and rot. One day, our eyes that gazed at improper things will be eaten by the maggots, and our brains, which thought improper thoughts and desired other flesh and blood, will rot and disintegrate in the earth.

Normally we don't focus on these things and try to serve Hashem with Simcha all year round. But on Erev Yom-Kippur, the Kapparos help us remember this truth once a year, and inspire us to do Teshuvah with a humbled and broken heart.

The Yidden In Kiev Didn't Need Chickens That Year

Exactly 67 years ago, towards the end of the Eseres Yimei Teshuvah, leaflets were distributed around the city of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, a part of the Soviet Union at that stage under Nazi control, informing all Jews that they were to report the following morning to a section of the city near the cemetery and that they were to take with them their valuables, warm clothes and personal documents. The leaflets also warned that any Jews that didn't would be shot.

By 8am the next morning, on the 8th of Tishrei, over 30,000 Jews had congregated near the cemetery as instructed. Rumours abounded as to what was going to happen to them. They were understandably scared, but tried to calm each other with assurances that everything would be fine.

The general consensus was that they were going to be deported. Yes, that was it, they thought, they were going to be sent away and resettled. After all, they had been told to bring their personal documents, right? Some even arrived early to get a good seat on the train.

They couldn't have been more wrong. There was no train; neither was there any plan to resettle them. Instead, they were led through the cemetery, where their documentation was checked. They were told to leave their baggage and that they would be reunited with it at their destination.

They were then pushed through a corridor of German soldiers, who beat them with sticks and kicked them, all the time laughing and mocking their victims. A famous eyewitness account said the soldiers "seemed to be drunk with fury in a sort of sadistic rage".

After leaving this corridor, bleeding, screaming and crying uncontrollably, the Jews were led to an overgrown area near the edge of a ravine, called Babi Yar. There they were shot and their bodies dumped into the ravine.

The whole process was executed with military precision. Most of the victims had no idea what was going on until it was too late.

First, in groups of 10 or more, they were machine-gunned and then pushed over the edge. Then soldiers walked among the injured and dying lying in the ravine and shot them at point-blank range.

Over the next 36 hours — throughout the day, into the night and throughout the next day — a total of 33,711 Jews from the city of Kiev were massacred. Assuming it was a non-stop process, that works out at about 15 men, women and children killed every minute — simply because they were Jewish. (Taken from www.vosizneias.com)

Yidden! Let these holy martyrs of Kiev be in our minds this Yom-Kippur. Let our hearts be broken before Hashem, and let us remember that we are mere flesh and blood, slaughtered by our enemies for Hashem's sake throughout all the generations. Let us get ANGRY once and for all - REALLY ANGRY - at the Yetzer Hara who causes us to sin against the Almighty and abuse the gift of life that we were given, for the mere 80 years or so that we spend on this temporary earth. Let the tears come. Let our hearts be broken and humbled. For this is the real Teshuvah, as it says in Tehillim: "Zivchei Elokim Ruach Nishabra, Lev Nishbar Ve'nidkeh Elokim Lo Sivzeh" - The (true) sacrifice of Hashem is a broken spirit, a broken and humbled heart Hashem will not discard.

And may we all be written in the book of LIFE and be Zoche to a G'mar Chasimah Tova!