Some studies show the effect of certain types of clothing that impact our actions and attitudes. Each year on Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol wore unique white clothing when performing the Avodah service in the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holiest of Holies). However, the Talmud (Yoma 24a) tells us that the clothes worn by the High Priest were never to be reused for a future Yom Kippur Avodah. What is unique about these white clothes that are different from his regular priestly attire, which could continuously be worn?
I saw a beautiful explanation in the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The primary function of the Kohen Gadol’s service on Yom Kippur is achieving Teshuva for the Jewish people, from which the ability and strength of every Jew to work on their personal Teshuva flows. Individuals perform successful Teshuva by reinventing themselves to become entirely new people. As Rambam famously says in Hilchot Teshuva (2:7):
“איני אותו האיש שעשה אותם המעשים”
I am no longer that person who committed those acts.
Therefore, when the Kohen Gadol does the Avodah the following year, he can no longer wear the clothing from the last year. Because after undergoing the process of Teshuva the previous year, it is as if he is an entirely new being, and one Kohen Gadol can not wear the clothing of another Kohen Gadol.
The same is true about our personal Teshuva; it will differ each subsequent year. Last year’s Teshuva is going to look very different this year. Every year we have a distinct area of focus to work on for self-improvement, with new and ever-changing challenges and struggles that we attempt to overcome. Much like a person on a diet or who has gained weight must find new clothes that fit, our personal Teshuva must change yearly to ensure that it stays relevant and resonant.
This week as we enter the first Shabbat of the year – Shabbat Teshuva, let us commit to a renewed appreciation of the beauty that Shabbat brings to our lives and all the blessings it brings with it.
After Shabbat services, there will be”H be the customary Shabbat Teshuva address with the relevant Halachot of Yom Kippur this coming Tuesday evening, Oct 4, 2022.
Shabbat Shalom & Chatima Tova,
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay