This year, Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, the Sabbath. Yom Kippur itself is called “Sabbath of Sabbaths” in the Torah [Lev. 16:31] — but what is the connection? They seem to lie at opposite ends of the spectrum. On the Sabbath, we sit together with family and guests, enjoy elaborate meals, and relax. On Yom Kippur, by contrast, we spend the day fasting and praying, not even wearing comfortable (leather) shoes.
Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr zt”l explains that some say that “Shabbos” is to “rest” from the physical world. Others say that it comes from the word “shav”, to return, meaning that on the Sabbath everything returns to its root. But both of these, he goes on to say, really refer to the same thing. When a person rests from the physical, then a person is able to focus back upon his roots.
On Yom Kippur, this is doubly so — because, as Maimonides says, on Yom Kippur we rest from eating and drinking. Whereas on the Sabbath we rest just from constructive labor, on Yom Kippur we rest even from consuming food and drink, pulling back from physical matters to an even greater extent. In the end, the Maharal writes, the goal is to so remove a person from the physical, that the person is “sanctified like an angel!”
May all our prayers be accepted, and may we all be sealed in the Book of Life on this “Sabbath of Sabbaths,”
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org