Mitzvah/Concept 92 Yom Kippur Part Three
Shabbat Shabbaton;The Gate of the Holy of Holies
A Shabbat of Shabbats is seven times seven; forty nine. This represents the forty nine of the fifty levels of Binah,
Divine Understanding, that were used to create the universe. Moses pleaded with God to achieve the fiftieth level, at which absolutely all existence fits together as pieces of an enormous puzzle.1 “And now, if I have found favor in Your eyes, make Your way known to me.”2 “Show me now Your glory.”3 God denied the request, but said, “I shall make all My goodness pass before you, and I shall call out with the name God before you; I shall show favor when I choose to show favor, and I shall show mercy when I choose to show mercy.4 He said, ‘You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see My face and live.’ God said, ‘Behold! There is a place near Me; you may stand on the rock. When My glory passes by, I shall place you in a cleft of the rock; I shall shield you with My hand until I have passed. Then I shall remove My hand and you will see My back, but my face may not be seen.”5 It was at this point that God revealed the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy to Moses. He showed Himself as a Shaliach Tzibbur, an agent leading a congregation in prayer, wrapped in a Tallit, praying the Thirteen Attributes. “Whenever Israel sins, let them perform before Me this order of prayer and I shall forgive them.”6 They are the closest we can come to the highest level of Binah.
Yom Kippur is Shabbat Shabbaton, seven times seven. Seven represents the physical world which was created in seven days. Yom Kippur takes us to the highest level of Binah that a human being can reach. This level is called Sha’ar Kodesh Kodashim, The Gate of The Holy of Holies.7
The Cohen Gadol enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. He crosses the threshold into the 49th level, but he immediately places the incense on coals to create a cloud of smoke8, to symbolize that he cannot perceive the fiftieth and highest level of Binah.
When we recite the first verse of the Shema we are speaking of God on a level beyond human comprehension, the level of Higher Unification9. We are describing God as if we were standing with Moses in the cleft of the rock and with the Cohen Gadol in the Holy of Holies. Just as God shielded Moses with His hand, and the Cohen Gadol filled the Holy of Holies with smoke, we cover our eyes, as if to say, this is a level we cannot possibly grasp. This is more of a reality on Yom Kippur than any other time because it is Shabbat Shabbaton, the Sabbath of all Sabbaths, the time when God will grant the potential to reach the 49th level of Divine Understanding.
1 Nachmanides Introduction to his Commentary on the Torah2 Exodus 33:133 ibid verse 184 In other words, God will “arbitrarily” choose when to show favor and when to show mercy. Moses, possessing 49 levels of understanding, but not the 50th level, will not be able to understand. See TB Berachot 7a5 Exodus 33:19-236 TB Rosh Hashanah 17b7 Maharal, Chiddushei Agadot Volume 1, page 122, Tractate Rosh Hashanah8 Leviticus 16:29 Zohar volume 1 18b