Yom Kippur in March?

The Haftarah for Parsha Vayikra is from Yishayahu 43:21-44:23 and takes place when B’nai Yisrael are already in galut (exile) after the destruction of the First Beit HaMikdash.


Yishayahu explains that when B’nai Yisrael had the Beit HaMikdash, they didn’t take the service of bringing Korbanot (sacrifices outlined in Parshat Vayikra) seriously, at times they were even focused on worshipping other gods. God therefore destroyed the Beit HaMikdash and exiled the Jewish people. When He sent them into exile, God also forgave them for their sins. Now God is ready to start a clean slate, return them to the Land of Israel and rebuild the Beit HaMikdash.


Yishayahu 44:22 states “I will have wiped away your willful sins like a thick cloud and your errors like a mist, return to Me (shuva elai), for I have redeemed you (ki gaalticha).”


Since the Neviim (the books of the prophets) were written both for their own time period as well as for future generations, this pasuk is calling on all of the Jewish people in all of the generations to do tshuva and return to God. When a person does complete tshuva, all of their former sins will be erased (in the same way that clouds fully disappear) making room for the full redemption to take place.


The Rabbis adapted this concept into the Yom Kippur Musaf service:


Elokeinu v’Elokei Avoteinu, Our God and the God of our forefathers, pardon our iniquities on this Day of Atonement. Wipe away and remove our willful sins and errors from before Your eyes, as it is said (Yishayahu 43:25): ‘I have wiped away your willful sins for My sake and I shall not recall your errors.’ And it said (Yishayahu 44:22): ‘I will have wiped away your willful sins like a thick cloud and your errors like a mist, return to Me, for I have redeemed you.’ And it said (Vayikra 16:30): ‘For through this day He will atone for you to cleanse you; from all your sins before God you will be cleansed.’…For you are the  Forgiver of Israel and the Pardoner of the tribes of Yeshurun in every generation and other than You we have no king who pardons and forgives, only You! Blessed are You HaShem, the King who pardons and forgives our iniquities and the iniquities of His people, the family of Israel and removes our sins every single year, King over the world Who sanctifies Israel and the Day of Atonement.


We see from here that this call to do tshva is applicable in every generation.


Amos Chacham in his commentary (Daat Mikra on Yishayahu) points out that the words “shuva elai ki gaalticha” mean that the Jewish people should leave Bavel (Babylonia) and return to the place where the Shechina (Divine Presence) rests in the Land of Israel.


Since these words are true for all generations this is also a reminder for us to constantly work on returning to God by fulfilling the mitzvot and there is no better place to fulfill the mitzvot than in the Land of Israel.