Seven Levels of Teshuvah: Yaakov Conclusion
Yom Kippur Service:
There is only one holiday in Parashat Pinchas that is not referred to as a day. Every holiday except Yom Kippur is
called “Yom” either by number or by a title. “Yom Hachamishi. Yom Teruah. Yom Habikkurim.” Yom Kippur is not called day at all. The Rokeach1 explains that it isn’t a day in time. A day means that it exists in a certain time frame. Yom Kippur does not because it goes above and beyond any system.
This is the idea behind the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy that we recite over and over. Moshe was unwilling to accept that God would no longer be willing to deal with the Jews directly after the sin of the Golden Calf. God explained that now that the Jews were impure and would sin they could not deal with Him directly or they would be destroyed. Moshe insisted. So God gave him the 13 Attributes of Mercy for the Jews to call on whenever they needed forgiveness. The 13 lift us above the system so that we can relate directly to God despite our sins. This is this level of Teshuva. It allows us to relate to God directly even if the structure of the universe cries against it.
When the agent of the Jews was sent to the mountains to throw the goat of Azazel off the cliff he would stop at a series of booths along the way to prevent him from breaking the laws of Techum Shabbat, the boundaries of the Shabbat. The booths allowed him to travel far beyond the precincts of Jerusalem. At each booth he was offered food and drink because he was traveling such a great distance. Part of the service of Yom Kippur, when the punishment for breaking the fast is death, included an offer of food and drink to one of the most important participants in the service. Part of the service was permission to break the rules, to rise above the system. This is exactly this level of Teshuva which can go against a negative commandment of the Torah.
1 Rabbi Eleazer ben Judah 1165-1230