The most beautiful sunset of the year. This - writes Rabbi Menachem Genack in the ‘Machzor of the Rav’– is how Rav Moshe Soloveichik described the sunset on Yom Kippur to his son, the Rav. That’s because - as the Rav points out in Halakhic Man – sunset is the time of Ne’ilah the concluding service of that most holy of days.
Cognitive man sees only the sun setting over the horizon. Homo-religiosus does not see the sunset at all and focuses only the religious aspects of the day. But Halakhic man sees the sunset and realizes the great significance of that moment. For Halakhic Man - all is viewed through the prism of Halacha.
God has given His people a gift. The gift of forgiveness. The sunset at Ne’ilah is the most beautiful sunset of the year because it atones for Klal Yisroel.
Chazal tell us that Kol Holchin Achar HaChasima. The seal or signature at the end of any document is the most important aspect of it. It in effect validates it. Ne’ilah is the signature service of the day. It in effect seals our fate. We in fact express our prayer in those terms. ‘May God seal good life to all the children of your covenant’ is one of the final supplications of the day.
Although we fast on Yom Kippur and observe various customs of mourning such as not wearing leather shoes and have a feeling of awe and trepidation about our fate, Yom Kippur is also a Yom Tov. It is a day of Simcha - great joy.
Quoting the Rav - Rabbi Genack explains that whenever the Torah declares a day of Simcha - he uses the expression’ Lifnei HaShem’ – before God. The Torah was given on that day. Rabbi Genack writes that genuine happiness flows from our being before God, in His warm consoling embrace.
Therefore on this day when all of humanity stands in judgment, Yom Kippur generates an obligation of Simcha. ‘Gilu B’Rada’ - Be joyus with trembling! It is the sense of being in God’s presence that is both unnerving and comforting. This - says Rabbi Genack - defined the Rav’s persona.
I believe that we should all take a cue from the Rav. Yom Kippur is the day where all our efforts in Teshuva pay off and at the end of the day God promises forgiveness. That is truly something to celebrate.
G’mar Chasima Tova