Between the Mishna about the Kohen Gadol’s fine clothing and the Mishna about his personal Korban and request for Kapara from Hashem, we have a Baraita that attempts to draw those of us who engage with the Daf into the Yom Kippur Tshuva process.
The Baraita asks what will a poor, rich or wicked person answer to the Heavenly Court when asked why he didn’t have time to learn Torah during his lifetime. In order to answer this question, a person must focus on how he is choosing to live his life each and every day.
The first two stories of impoverished Hillel and the very wealthy Rebbi Eliezer Ben Harsom describe how they each rose above their natural worries related to their station in life in order to study Torah. These stories, impressive on their own, could have stopped with that moral lesson, but instead they continue to tell us about the one time each was tested. What was their response when confronted with the inability to learn Torah for a day? Their response sheds light as to why both become religious leaders of their generation. Hillel became the Nasi and Rebbi Eliezer Ben Harsom the Kohen Gadol.
The story of Yosef Hatzadik portrays the opposite point. It isn’t about life choices and the one day being tested – it is about being thrust into a daily situation you wouldn’t have chosen and having the faith to invoke Hashem’s name and his power to protect you in the face of evil. Not only did Yosef need to save himself from Potiphar’s wife, he constantly had to master his evil inclination. Such a person who walks with Hashem as he faces earthly challenges is worthy of Kingship. It is he who has the ability to save his brothers and lead his family from starvation to prosperity.
The Baraita is asking us, as we enter that one day of Yom Kippur and immerse ourselves in the Tshuva process: “Have we been preparing all year long?” If that’s true, then it’s our daily choices that will enable us to face the unexpected and to acknowledge Hashem during times of challenge. The choices we make are an impetus for us to lead, pray for and save our nation.