This question deals with the procedures on YK itself, not the 10 days of repentance.

Rambam (Hichot Teshuva 3) says that YK is dedicated for Beynonim, i.g. those whose merits equal to sins. Further he claims that the final verdict of YK is based on weighing one's merits vs sins and not how hard one davens on Yom Kippur.

My logic says that the whole YK day must be dedicated to maximizing one's merits thru performing as many Mitzvot and especially Torah learning, as the greatest Mitzvah of them all - Peah 1:1 as one can, just as Rambam prescribes for the 10 days of repentance.

Instead, we do almost "nothing Halachicly valuable" on Yom Kippur, besides the one-time Mitzvah of Viduy (Teshuvah) and the regular Teffila amd Krishm"A (as for Rambam). No obligatory Torah study, no Tzedaka on YK, no procreation etc.

Why we don't try to maximize our merits on Yom Kippur through engaging in Mitzvot and Torah learning?

NB: Do you think opening a Kolel "Yom Kippur Torah" for those who can't daven for 6 hours straight is a viable option?

  • Interesting point. Maybe the NB should be the opening of the question. But of course, the mitzva d'yoma is viduy is the Sages (over centuries) prescribed a specific form for the many viduyim of Yom Kippur. Not so easy to decide to move them to 1 and learn the rest of the time. Now if you are asking whether you can pray at netz, finish at 10am and learn until 4pm, then that would be quite interesting. Sign me up!
    – mbloch
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 13:01
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    This question seems to imply that davening on YK is not a Mitzvah. The answer to your question is that davening on Yom Kippur is indeed the Mitzvah of the day. Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 15:23
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    Al Berko and @mbloch - There are older people in every community who can't make it to shul and find Yom Kippur very difficult, whether they're able to fast or not. If you decide to go to a neitz minyan next year, learning is a good option, but you might also consider asking around a few days before to see if anyone knows one of these people, and after davening just going to their house and sitting with them. You will make their Yom Tov 1000x better.
    – Heshy
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 15:49
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    @Al Berko according to the rambam, davening every day is a mitzvah d'oraysa (sefer hamitzvos aseh 5, perek 1 halacha 1 of hilchos tefillah)and even according to the ramban, davening during a time of tzarah is a mitzvah d'oraysa (in his commentary to the sefer hamitzvos, although he does offer different explanations as well) and i would think that yom kippur, when your whole year is getting decided, is considered a eis tzarah. also the ramban on perek 23 pasuk 2 in vayikra says that gathering together to call out to hashem is a mitzvah on yom tov
    – Asher
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 16:34
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2 Answers 2


Rambam himself says in Hilchot Teshuvah 3:3 that a person who is ‘hanging in the balance’ (i.e. has the same ‘number’ of merits and sins) must do teshuvah by Yom Kippur in order to be ‘sealed for life’.

“Wait!”, I hear you say. “Why does he need to do teshuvah? Surely any other mitzvah will be enough to ‘tip the scales’?”

R. Yitzchak Blazer in Kochvei Ohr chap. 5 answers that the sin of not doing teshuvah when presented with the opportunity to do so, will outweigh any other possible mitzvah one could do.

You have no other option. If you want to be sealed for good, you’re going to need to sincerely repent before Yom Kippur is done.

  • Sorry I downvoted (not you but R' Blazer) and not commented: "the sin of not doing Teshuvah" does not align with our common Halacha where there's no punishment for not doing a positive Mitzvahs. I read his arguments, but they are very feeble, based on distant Shaare Teshuva (which is not a Halachic book). I don't think you can use S"T against Rambam.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 17:17
  • Isn’t he using Shaarei Teshuvah to explain Rambam, rather than against him?
    – Joel K
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 17:25
  • Maybe you're right, I lose focus quickly on passages that long. "אכן אם כי החובה פרושה תמיד על האדם לחזור בתשובה. והחוטא כאשר יתאחר לשוב מחטאתו. יכבד עליו מאוד ענשו בכל יום. וכמש"כ בס' שע"ת לר"י וכנ"ל. אמנם עוד יותר יגדל החוב לשוב לפניו ית"ש. "?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 17:46
  • Anyways, what I'm trying to say, I object using non Halachic, Hashkafah sources against strict Halacha, even if it makes sense. I want to know Halacha in this case, and Rambam is clear about weighting merits. Unless someone contradicts Rambam that YK s not about merits, but something else.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 17:49
  • I agree that Rambam says it's all about merits. But Rambam himself says that someone who is fifty-fifty needs to do teshuvah - he doesn't say you can do anything else to add merits.
    – Joel K
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 18:25

I have a possible direction (based on my Rabbi's books on Teshuva - בית גנזי) of a reason for the fact that our YK is contradicting Rambam's description of Teshuva. I will only outline it and ask for sources that support that hypothesis:

  1. While balancing the merits is one way to win YK, there's an alternative to it. It is based on the theoretical ability of a person to nullify his "reality" and to be reborn as a "tabula rasa" (blank slate).

  2. It can be traced to how Avraham presented himself to G-d (Ber 18,27): "וְאָנֹכִי עָפָר וָאֵפֶר" ("I who am but dust and ashes."). In Hassidus this is based on Tosefta Temurah (30b) "ומודה ר' אליעזר באפרוח שיצא מביצה טרפה שיקרב לגבי מזבח", that "A chick that came from a Treyfah egg is Kosher" because the egg "turned to dust" before it became a chik. Similarly, if a person turns himself into dust (metaphorically of course) he will ultimately become Kosher.

  3. As Rambam mentions in place there's no Teshuva on YK for Reshoyim, as those who have negative balance are immediately signed for death. Therefore, seemingly, YK only helps Beynonim, which we all ascribe ourselves. However, the alternative approach works for all.

  4. The idea is that a person (practically all of us) that considers himself as Beynoni (or maybe a Rashah) is more concerned with his fear to "lose it all" than with the opportunity to do Mitzvos to change the balance. Therefore he spends the whole day in an attempt to achieve some kind of personal nullification to be considered a "new person" and therefore "sin free".

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