Tefilla Zaka

From: Anat in Israel

Dear Rabbi,

In connection with Yom Kippur, I have seen the term “tefilla zaka”. It seems to mean “pure prayer”. Is this a general way in which we are to pray, or does it refer to a specific prayer in the service. If so, what is it, when do we say it, and how is it related to Yom Kippur? Thank you in advance.

Dear Anat,

Tefilla Zaka is a special prayer that we say after completing the final meal before the fast upon arriving in the shul before Kol Nidrei.

It is called the “pure prayer” because of its purifying effect on the hearts of its readers as a preparation for the Day of Atonement.

The subject of the tefilla zaka is the acceptance of the fast’s five “afflictions”: refraining from: 1] Eating 2] Drinking 3] Washing and anointing 4] Wearing shoes of leather and 5] Marital relations.

Another essential aspect of the prayer is repentance and forgiveness for sins committed by people against each other.  These transgressions are not forgiven by G‑d on Yom Kippur unless one asks forgiveness from the offended first. But this can’t always be done. How can one find all those he’s hurt to conciliate them? And how can others find him to conciliate him over having wronged him?

Tefilla zaka places in the mouths of all those who repent, wherever they may be, words of whole-hearted, mutual forgiveness which remove the barriers of atonement and open the gates of Divine Mercy. Here is an excerpt from the prayer:

“I hereby extend total forgiveness to all who have wronged me, whether personally or financially, or by slandering or defacing me; to all who have committed against me any of the wrongs that are between man and man, let no one be punished because of me. And just as I forgive all men, grant me favor in the eyes of all, that they might also extend total forgiveness to me.”

As we complete this most beautiful and moving prayer, the sun sets, the Ark is opened, and we unite in penitence as one People before G‑d, our forgiving Father and King…

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