(Apropos of Yom Kippur, I quote the following teachings about the dynamics of Divine Judgement and its source in our own actions)

ה׳׳ צלך


Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, one of the greatest of the early Hasidic teachers, taught:

“This I heard from the Baal Shem Tov on the verse, ‘G-d is your shadow…’ [1] When a living creature stands by its shadow…
just as the creature moves, so the shadow moves. 
It is quite the same with [G-d].
 According to the actions of a mortal human being on earth,
 so is he treated by the Heavenly realm above.” [2

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, chief disciple of the Gaon of Vilna — the main opponent of the Besht’s Hasidut — gives exactly the same teaching, using precisely the same proof-text:

“Man was given the choice to direct himself and the spiritual worlds on high toward good or evil, and, even if he already sinned and brought destruction to the higher worlds, he has the power to rectify his lapses and repair the ruin he caused, because his soul is the core of all the spiritual worlds and forces.

[King] David put it like this, ‘G-d is your shadow…’ [1]. Just as one’s shadow mimics every motion one makes, so does G-d guide the higher worlds according to one’s actions. The Zohar [3] explains: ‘If a person smiles, Heaven smiles at him; if he is sad and depressed, Heaven judges him with strictness. And so it says, ‘Serve Ha-Shem with [joy]‘ [4], for a joyful person draws down joy from above. Indeed, whatever one does down in this wold evokes a similar response from above’.” [5]

This is especially relevant to Yom Kippur, which will commence in only a few days.

If on Yom Kippur we aspire to be forgiven, it would seem, based on the above, as if the initiative is, in fact, ours: We must forgive!

This is confirmed in the Talmud:

“Whoever is compassionate toward others [and forgives wrongs done to him/her], compassion is shown to him/her from Heaven…” [6

“If one has received an injury, then, even if the wrongdoer has not asked for forgiveness, the receiver of the injury must nevertheless ask G-d to show the wrongdoer compassion, even as Avraham prayed to G-d for Avimelech, and Ayov [Job] for his friends. Rabbi Gamliel said, ‘Let this be a sign to you, that whenever you are compassionate, the Compassionate One will have compassion on you.” [7

“Whoever forgoes retaliation [and forgives wrongs done to him/her], his/her sins are remitted…” [8]

The last quotation above is particularly noteworthy: It comes from “Yoma” — the Talmudic tractate dealing with Yom Kippur.

On Rosh Ha-Shanah we dwell on G-d as King. If on Yom Kippur we dwell on G-d as Judge, we must also dwell on the part we ourselves play in how we are judged.


[1] Tehillim/Ps. 121:5.  ה׳׳ צלך — which can also mean, “G-d is your shade” (your relief from the heat of the sun; your comfort).

[2] Dvorkes, Rabbi Aryeh and Joshua; The Baal Shem Tov on Pirkey Avot; Chas. Wengrow, trans.; © 1974 by Rabbi Y.A. Dvorkes; p. 23 (from Rabbi Levi Yitzhak; Kedushat Ha-Levi).
I recently quoted the same teaching:


[3] Tetzaveh 184b:
“…the awakening below causes an awakening above. If it should be asked how the awakening below can have such an effect on the higher sphere, the answer is this: The lower world is always in a receptive state … and the upper wold only communicates [lit. "gives"/יהיב] to it according to the condition in which it [i.e. the lower world] is found at any given time. If it shows a smiling [נהר -- shining] countenance, light and joy from the world above pour down upon it; but if it be sad and downcast [עצב -- grieved; sorrowful], it receives the severity of judgement, as it is written, ‘Serve Ha-Shem with joy’. So too does the lower sphere affect the upper: according to the degree of awakening below there is awakening and heavenly joy above.” (Soncino Zohar, vol. 4, p.126)
(another translation):
“..by the lower awakening there is also an awakening above. You may ask how a sound below or an awakening below [can] awaken THAT WHICH CORRESPONDS TO IT ABOVE. Come and behold: the Lower World…is always ready to receive…The Upper World…gives it according to its state. If its state is of a shiny countenance from below, in the same manner it is shone upon from above, but if it is in sadness, it is correspondingly given Judgment. Similarly, ‘Serve Hashem with gladness’ (Tehilim 100:2), because human gladness draws another, supernal gladness. Thus, just as the Lower World is crowned, so it draws from above.” (Zohar.com)

ובאתערותא דלתתא, אתער הכי נמי לעילא. ואי תימא, היך יכיל קלא דלתתא, או אתערותא דלתתא לאתערא, או חזי, עלמא תתאה, קיימא לקבלא תדיר…ועלמא עלאה לא יהיב ליה, אלא כגוונא דאיהו קיימא. אי איהי קיימא בנהירו דאנפין מתתא, כדין הכי נהרין ליה מלעילא. ואי איהו קיימא בעציבו, יהבין ליה דינא בקבליה. כגוונא דא, עבדו את יי בשמחה. חדוה דבײנ, משיך לגביה חדוה אחרא עלאה

(Aramaic text from Zohar.com)

[4] Tehillim/Ps. 100:2

[5] Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin; Nefesh Ha-Chaim; Rabbi A.Y. Finkel, trans.; Judaica Press, pub.; © 2009 by Rabbi A.Y. Finkel, p. 40

[6] Shabbat 151b

[7] Mishnah Baba Kamma 9:29-30

[8] Yoma 23a