God's Message to Us on Yom Kippur

I wanted to share this moving passage from Isaiah read on the day of Yom Kippur that speaks to the heart of this holy day – we draw near to the Divine when we act to repair the world through acts of justice.  

Yet they seek Me daily and desire to know My ways; like a righteous nation who has not forsaken the law of their God; they ask Me about righteous laws, they desire to draw near to God. (They ask) Why do you not see when we fast: we afflict our souls and You do not notice? For on your fast day you seek business and oppress your laborers. You fast for strife and contention; to smite with a fist of wickedness; you do not fast this day to make your voices heard on high.

Can this then be the fast that I have chosen – a day when man afflicts his soul, to bow down his head like a reed, to sit in sackcloth and ashes? Is this what you call a fast, an acceptable day to Adonoy?

Behold, this is the fast that I have chosen – loosening the bonds of wickedness, undoing the straps of the yoke, sending the oppressed free and breaking every yoke (of tyranny).  Break your bread with the hungry, and bring the impoverished into your home; clothe the naked when you see them and do not hide from your own flesh (relatives).  Then will your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall come quickly; your righteousness will go before you and the Glory of Adonoy will gather you up. Then when you call out, Adonoy will answer; when you cry out, He shall say: “I am here.” If you remove from your midst the yokes, the stretching out of a finger and wrongful speech.  If you reach out to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then your light shall shine forth in the darkness; and your deep darkness shall be as light as noon.  Adonoy will always guide you and satisfy your soul from thirst and make strong your bones.


Isaiah 58:1-14 excerpted from From The Metsudah Machzor: A New Linear Machzor Yom Kippur  (Mass: Metzudah Publications: 1985) p. 446-447.