By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
The time leading up to Yom Kippur consists of a 40-day period where we are given the opportunity to come close to Hashem and repent. The idea of the specific time of 40 days is intriguing, and the basic reason for that amount comes from the 40-day period that Moshe was up in heaven accepting the second set of Luchos, the Tablets. After having broken the first set upon seeing the sin of the Golden Calf, he went up to heaven once more to get a second set and to try to obtain forgiveness for the sin. The Jewish nation was forgiven on Yom Kippur, when Hashem said “Salachti k’dvarecha—I forgive you according to your word.”
There are two other situations where the number 40 is significant, from which we can draw a lesson regarding Yom Kippur. It takes 40 weeks for a fetus to form in the womb. The lesson inherent in this comparison is that on Yom Kippur we have the power to transform ourselves to regain the purity of an innocent newborn child.
A second comparison is made between the 40 days from the beginning of Elul to Yom Kippur and the 40 cubits of water used for a mikveh. In the same way that a mikveh purifies from spiritual contamination, so do the 40 days leading up to Yom Kippur purify us spiritually.
When we actually come to the day of Yom Kippur, we will already have a big advantage if we have properly used the 39 days preceding it. We will be almost at the point of spiritual purity like that of a newborn. On the day of Yom Kippur, we can then complete the process we began and Hashem will cleanse us of our sins.
There is a parable brought that can explain a bit about what happens on Yom Kippur. If a person takes a string and cuts it, then the two ends are separated from each other. By then knotting the strings together, not only is the string now one piece again, the two ends are actually a bit closer together, and the bond is a bit stronger than it was before. So it is with our relationship with Hashem— through the power of repentance, we have the ability to become closer to Hashem than we ever were before.
This concept works between man and his fellow, and it’s possible that you have noticed this with your spouse in the past. When you get into an argument or do something hurtful but then make up and forgive, there is generally a feeling of enhanced love and care that wasn’t there before.
May you and your family be sealed in the book of life for a happy and healthy year. v
Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00–11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430-5280 or e‑mail firstname.lastname@example.org.