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HaShem Has You Covered

With his song in Parashat Haazinu (Deut. 32:1-52) Moses likens his teachings as coming, “…down like rain and his words flowing like dew. Rain brings cleansing and sustains, usually arriving with more force than the dew. Dew is a gentler and a more subtle form of moisture that nourishes the earth and plant life in the evening. Moshe’s teachings and his words—just like rain and dew— come directly from the Creator.

During his discourse, Moses reminds the people of God’s warning that they will one day veer from the path of Torah and HaShem “will hide His face”, a phrase that reminds us of Purim. In fact, the second word in Yom Kippur can be read, “like Purim”. And there are many similarities and word associations that connect the themes of Yom Kippur, Purim and even the Flood. For example, we recall how Queen Esther called for the people to fast and pray. Through this and Esther's own efforts, Jews all across the Persian Empire were saved from Haman's murderous proclamation. Purim and Yom Kippur represent the power of repentance and God’s forgiveness. These concepts are linked by words formed from the Hebrew letters caf, pey and resh....words that mean "covering". For example, on Yom Kippur the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) enters the Holy of Holies four times. He is allowed to pass through the veil and stand before the Ark of the Covenant. We read in Exodus 25:22:

"And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the kaporet, from between the two cherubim which are upon the Ark of the Testimony."

The kaporet is the covering, topped by the two kheruvim, that seals the golden box we know as the Ark. Moses and later, the Kohen Gadol would commune with the Creator at that spot, without the veil blocking their proximity to the Ark. This was, in essence, atonement achieved by praying in front of ark, coupled with repentance (and in the days of Temple, offerings were part of process). Repentance allows us to unblock our access to HaShem and to come near Him.

Another connection to the the words of Moses regarding the rain comes from the Moroccan sage Or Hachaim who tells us that, in Haazinu, rain is symbolic of the Written Torah and dew represents the Oral Torah. Rain also calls to mind the Flood waters that cleansed the Earth, forty days and nights during the Mabbul (Flood of Noach). Forty is the number of days Moses spent in the presence of HaShem on Sinai before he descended with the 2nd set of Tablets, a sign that God’s covenant was still in force and the people had been forgiven for the Sin of the Golden Calf. That was the first Yom Kippur. There is another connection to the Flood narrative. God instructed Noach to cover the tevah (ark) with pitch that Torah calls kofer used for making the teva watertight. Note the similarity of the word kofer and Kippur, which means “to cover.”

Like Noach and his family who were protected from raging waters within the sealed Tevah, on Yom Kippur we pray to be sealed in the Book of Life for this coming year. Let us remain grateful to the Creator for His mercies and may you, gentle reader, have an easy fast.

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