The opposite day, my 10-year-old daughter requested me to call my favourite Jewish vacation. I considered it for a couple of moments, and realized that the reply – unusual because it sounds – is Yom Kippur, a day of fasting and prayer, which begins Tuesday at sunset and ends Wednesday night time.
My daughter was stunned – she anticipated that it will be one of many enjoyable holidays, like Purim (costumes and large events), Hanukkah (candles and presents), or Simchat Torah (dancing and going loopy within the synagogue).
Not one of the above. For me it’s Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I don’t take pleasure in fasting, so it’s not like I’m pushed by masochistic tendencies.
I put Yom Kippur the highest of the checklist as a result of it’s the at some point within the yr after I can keep centered on one exercise and one exercise solely, which occurs to be crucial exercise in my life – connecting with God.
Consuming and ingesting? Only a distraction. Bathing, and even bodily contact with my spouse – it’s all off the desk, for simply at some point. The gymnasium? Not occurring. Know-how? Fuggetaboudit.
So the query is why, if Yom Kippur is lengthy and hunger- and headache-inducing, anybody would truly prefer it. Perversely, I prefer it as a result of it’s lengthy and repetitive. Right here’s why.
With out the distractions of a standard day – expertise, electronic mail, telephones, even food and drinks – and with the reinforcement that repetition gives, one experiences a depth of encounter with one’s spirituality that the day is supposed to supply.
In conventional Judaism, the fundamental prayers are repeated on Yom Kippur, with variations, 5 completely different instances over the course of the day. The expertise of repeating these prayers, on an more and more empty abdomen, focuses the thoughts splendidly.
One’s ideas could drift once in a while – that’s to be anticipated – but it surely’s exhausting to disregard a significant message repeated 5 instances, in 5 other ways, over the course of a single day.
A kind of repeated prayers known as the Ashamnu. We truly sing, as a group, an inventory of unhealthy deeds starting from A to Z within the Hebrew alphabet (okay, from Aleph to Taph). That’s proper – we truly sing out loud the issues we did incorrect, individually and as a group.
It’s not like we’re happy with ourselves for making errors. We use the checklist as a method of reminding ourselves that within the coming yr, we are able to and should do higher.
Human beings are the one creatures on Earth able to consciousness, remorse and alter. So the Ashamnu is a baseline for habits, reminding us of exactly the areas through which we have to do higher.
We sing our sins as a result of we acknowledge that, as Shakespeare wrote, to err is human. (And to be forgiven, divine.)
So we’re not hiding our culpability or pretending to be higher than we’re. As an alternative, we’re proclaiming it to the rooftops. What a aid it’s to acknowledge that we aren’t good.
We make errors. We do our greatest and typically our greatest isn’t ok. Typically, we don’t even do our greatest. By singing our sins, we’re accepting our humanity.
Some Jews say the Ashamnu prayer each day, however all of us solely sing it in unison in synagogue companies on Yom Kippur. I suppose that’s one thing you may’t do on a full abdomen.
For greater than two centuries, Judaism’s extra liberal branches have sought to make the Yom Kippur companies extra palatable by chopping out the repetitions and lowering the size of the service.
Logically, that is sensible. For those who say one thing as soon as, that ought to be sufficient. However while you solely say it as soon as, you lose the good thing about the phrases and concepts echoing repeatedly throughout your consciousness, till you are feeling an more and more deep reference to the concepts, with your individual life expertise, and with God.
So, sure, the day will be lengthy and repetitive. By late afternoon, it’s exhausting to disclaim that I’m impatient, hungry and making an attempt to stare exhausting sufficient on the minute hand of the clock to make it transfer quicker.
However with out the distractions of a standard day – expertise, electronic mail, telephones, even food and drinks – and with the reinforcement that repetition gives, one experiences a depth of encounter with one’s spirituality that the day is supposed to supply.
The perfect rationalization of Yom Kippur I ever heard got here 40 years in the past, after I was a school pupil. Rabbi Yisroel Deren at Chabad of Amherst defined issues this manner:
“The soul is a garment. This world is a muddy highway. The soul will get spattered with mud. Yom Kippur is God‘s dry cleansing service for the garment that’s your soul. In by eight a.m., out and and clear by 7 p.m. One Day Service!“
Works for me.
Typically after I’m fasting, the one factor I can take into consideration is the quick Itself.
However after I keep in mind that I’m visiting God’s dry cleaners, and I’ve received the entire day to give attention to that and nothing however that, the day takes on actual which means and I get to attach with the deepest a part of my consciousness.
I get to chop via the self-deceit and remind myself why I’m right here, the place I’m falling brief, and the areas through which I wish to do higher.
It’s exhausting to elucidate all that to a 10-year-old, however she’s a sensible child. In her personal method, I’m positive she already understands.