Basing itself on Vayikra 16:16 (“and so shall he do in the Tent of Meeting that dwells (HaShochen) among them in the midst of their impurities”) which describes the avodah of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, today’s daf (Yoma 56b) deduces that ‘even at a time that they (i.e. the Jewish people) are impure, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) is with them’.
Reflecting on this teaching, Rav Tzaddok HaKohen (Resisei Layla 19) explains that when we speak of the Shechinah, it refers to the presence of God in each of our hearts – as derived from Shemot 29:45, ‘and I will dwell (V’Shachanti) within’, meaning that God dwells within every one of us. Consequently, even when someone is totally involved in all manner of improper behaviour, the Shechinah – God’s Divine Presence – is still present within them, as we are taught elsewhere (Sanhedrin 44a), ‘even though a Jew has sinned, they are still a Jew’.
In so many ways this is both a profoundly simple and a profoundly beautiful idea, and it is noteworthy that this concept is derived from the rituals of Yom Kippur which is the day when even those who think themselves most disconnected from Judaism often push themselves to connect by fasting or by coming to synagogue.
Yet while both gestures of fasting and attending synagogue are religiously meaningful, the message of Rav Tzaddok is that God is within each of us and that wherever we are, whatever the day, and whatever we are doing, and even if we are totally involved in all manner of improper behaviour, the Shechinah – God’s Divine Presence – is still within us.