“Ki ata solechan leYisrael umochalan leshivte Yeshurun umibal’adecha en lanu melech mochel vesoleyach.”
For you are the pardoner of Israel and the forgiver of the tribes of Yeshurun and without you we have no forgiver and pardoner. (Yom Kippur prayers)
At the end of ‘Al Het’ in each prayer of Yom Kippur we proclaim Hashem as the Pardoner of Israel and the Forgiver of the tribes of Yeshurun. Describing the Jewish people as The Tribes of Yeshurun (Yaakov Avinu) is unique, not used in any other part of the Yom Kippur prayers. What is the significance of this reference? Furthermore why do we repeat the proclamation of Hashem as our forgiver and pardoner – seemingly the same thing in different words?
It is well known that the main focus of the service in the Bet Hamikdash on Yom Kippur was to achieve atonement for the sin of the golden calf. Hashem, at the time of the sin, was appeased to agree not to destroy the Jewish people (Salachti kidvarecha) but warned that a remnant of this sin would hang over us for all generations. And so Chazal (Sanhedrin 102a) tell us that every generation endures some punishment for the sin of the golden calf. The punishment is realised when we repeat and reconnect to that original sin. It left a remnant of evil in us and each time we sin the worshipping of the golden calf is awakened and invokes a punishment. We can understand it as a primary sin under which all out subsequent sins connect back to.
The Meshech Chochmah explains that this applies to all subsequent sins between man and Hashem (ben adam laMakom). However there was historically another primary sin, the selling of Yosef by his brothers, which affects us for all generations in a similar way. Each sin between man and his fellow man (ben adam lachavero) is a subsidiary, an offshoot, of the original catastrophic decision to sell Yosef. Each time we sin against a fellow man we plug in to the power of that original sin and re-enact it in a small way and in turn invoke a punishment for that sin.
On Yom Kippur we attempt to gain atonement for both sins, hoping to free ourselves of the shackles of these two events. We proclaim that Hashem is the Pardoner of Israel – Solechan Leyisrael, in line with Hashem saying ‘Salachti Kidvarecha’ after they’d proclaimed so horrendously ‘ele elohecha Yisrael’. So too He is the Forgiver of the tribes of Yeshurun – Hashem forgives for the sins between man and his fellow man which are rooted in the selling of Yossef by the tribes of Israel.
May Hashem give us strength and inspiration to free ourselves of these sins, meriting a year of blessing and true devotion to avodat Hashem. Tizku Leshanim Rabot Neimot Vetovot!