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    Afflicting the soul

    Our fast days are either national or personal, historical or spiritual. Which category is Yom Kippur?

    It is certainly spiritual, because of its association with kippurim (atonements) and innuyyim (afflictions).

    How can it also be national and historical? Because after Israel danced round the golden calf and Moses broke the tablets of the Decalogue in anger, God gave him the Yom Kippur message, Salachti — “I forgive!”

    If we look at the afflictions of Yom Kippur, let’s ask how they make a person more spiritual.

    It’s not because we believe in hurting ourselves, for example sweltering in the heat, shivering in the cold or suffering other pain (Yoma 74b). It’s not shev v’al ta’aseh (“sit and do nothing”) and pretending to enjoy it, but kum aseh (“get up and do something”).

    The five innuyyim in Yoma 8:1 require a choice, an action or reaction.

    Affliction of the soul is loss of enjoyment. The normal rule (Psalm 100:2) is, Iv’du et HaShem b’simchah — “Serve the Lord with joy”. But on Yom Kippur bodily joy is prohibited, particularly enjoyment that comes from eating. Fasting and affliction are linked in Deut. 8:3: “He afflicted you and made you hungry” (Yoma 74b).

    There are four other innuyyim: washing, anointing, wearing leather shoes, and marital intercourse.

    Rambam says (Moreh 3:43) that they encourage repentance and self-control. Sefer HaChinuch (313, 317, 185) adds that they reduce physicality, remove barriers to prayer, and restore the pristine Creation. Samson Raphael Hirsch says they restore personal purity and social harmony.

    Shlomo Riskin thinks they make Yom Kippur a happy day.

    He seems to be right. Yoma 8 applies to the day the words, Ashrecha Yisra’el — “Happy are you, O Israel” (Deut. 33:29). One who eats on Yom Kippur says the festive Ya’aleh V’yavo. We use a happy tune for the viddui.

    It seems that we can have happiness without enjoyment.

    Rabbi Riskin links innui with la’anot, “to respond”. There is a view that lechem oni (connected with innui) in the Haggadah is not “bread of affliction” but “bread of song (literally ‘response’)” (Pes. 115b). The innuyyim are five responses or modes of spiritual celebration.

    Even without earthly enjoyments we can still feel joy at gaining a glimpse of the angelic world.

    We sing, we rejoice, we are lifted above ourselves. Like angels we have no physical needs. We echo the angelic chorus, “Holy, holy, holy” – Kadosh kadosh kadosh (Isa. 6).

    If enjoyment is usually a physical experience, we can live without it.

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