Intro: The Sefat Emet (Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter of Ger, 1847-1905) was one of the later Hassidic Masters, living even into the beginning of the 20th century. Heir to the Gerrer Hassidic dynasty, he ascended to leadership when he was only twenty-three (having already lost both his parents as a young boy). He was not underprepared, however, and quickly became one of the most scholarly and prolific Hassidic Rebbes, writing extensively on the Talmud as well as the Torah. He was also certainly one of the most poetic Hassidic voices, and his writing is so gorgeous that one sometimes forgets what a keen and precise reader of text he was. Here he gives us a careful analysis of a classic Mishnah [rabbinic teaching] about Yom Kippur that leads him to a novel reframing of the entire holiday as a Day of Unity.
1. The Sefat Emet claims that all souls are inherently close to one another. What does that mean, and do you think it is true?
2. How do our sins drive us apart? What kinds of sins is the Sefat Emet most concerned with?
3. How does this description of Yom Kippur change your understanding of the holiday? What would it mean to see the day as a time to become unified with all the people of Israel, or even all the people of the world?
4. What does it feel like to "become One" with other people? Have you had experiences of that feeling?