Regarding Yom Kippur, why is there a necessity in Judaism to designate a particular day for atonement when one could atone any minute of the day as he or she chooses? Isn’t G-d listening all the time? Why designate a day that could potentially encourage sinful behavior during the year only to repent on Yom Kippur?
Maimonides addresses both your questions in his “Laws of Repentance”. In Chapter 2 he states,
Even though repentance is always good, during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur it is more desirable, and is accepted [by G-d] immediately… Yom Kippur is the time for repentance for the individual and community, and it is the end time of forgiveness and atonement for Israel. Therefore everyone is obligated to repent at this time…
During the year, a person has the option. At this time it is obligatory, and easier to accomplish. Consider the difference between flicking a bug off the table, and pushing a tiger off the table.
In Chapter 4 he says that one who sins with the intent of obtaining forgiveness on Yom Kippur is held back from repenting. We all know, the guy who says, “my diet starts tomorrow” never loses weight.
[Republished from the Archives]