Yom Kippur: Breaking the Mold

In Kabbalah, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is an internal world within us longing for healing, connection, purpose and repair. Within this internal world we engage in the process of purging all the toxins from our lives.

Each Shofar blast we hear on Yom Kippur reflects the meaning of this Holy time of year.

1. Tekiah — one solid note signifying wholeness.

2. Shvarim — a broken and wailing blast representing our inner cries, our pain and our yearning to connect. “Shvarim” means “fractured” in Hebrew. 

3. Teruah — a robust series of nine staccato sounds, symbolizing a wake-up call to tikkun neshama (repairing of our souls).

4. Tekiah Gedolah — the Big Tekiah. We began with Tekiah, but this time it’s one very long note emphatically calling for our return to wholeness, bringing us full circle. 

In Kabbalah it is said that we are liberated from our lowest point on Yom Kippur and elevated to our highest.

During the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe)— the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — we take self-inventory and a full accounting of our lives over the past year. Before Yom Kippur commences, we are to ask forgiveness and make amends directly to anyone we have hurt with or without intent.

Traditionally, we fast for 25 hours and refrain from working to devout ourselves to the holiness of the day. On the flip side, we must eat and hydrate if fasting will adversely impact our health.

It’s an emotionally fraught and intense time of Truths about yourself and all your relationships. Realistically, you may not get that apology you so desperately need, even though the person that wounded you deeply is paying religious lip service to Yom Kippur.

In mainstream Judaism, Yom Kippur is a somber time spent at all day synagogue services in repentant prayer. It can be overwhelming for people struggling with the emotional landmines of unresolved hurt and pain. It may help to know our Sages approached Yom Kippur optimistically as a positive time of transformation, change, liberation and personal growth.

Kabbalah teaches our souls are opened to receive the Divine traits of Communication, Understanding, Wisdom and Loving-kindness on Yom Kippur. There’s a qualifier however. Loving-Kindness must be rooted in Gevurah — the strength of good judgment — so that we don’t turn loving-kindness into martyrdom.

We don’t hear it often, but Shmirat Haguf (self-care) is integral to Yom Kippur.

Atonement means at-one-meant. At-one-meant happens when you’re aligned with the things you value you most.

The Torah tells us:

I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life – so you and your offspring may live.


In what ways can you choose a blessing and live your best life this year?

On Yom Kippur we make a choice between business as usual or a new game plan.

I have two stories that may help you to balance the intensity of Yom Kippur:

Story One:

The Talmud contains a passage describing Yom Kippur as a sensual and joyous celebration!

There were no better days for Israelites than the 15th of Av and the Day of Atonement. For on those days Jerusalemite girls go out to dance in the vineyards in borrowed white dresses, so as not to shame those who owned none…and declare, ‘Oh fellows, look around and see. Choose what you want, but don’t look for beauty, look for family. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who has reverence for GOD will be praised.

Talmud / Rabbi Gamliel

The ladies wore second-hand dresses, so that they would all be seen as equal. This passage presents Yom Kippur as a sensory celebration imbued with important life lessons. The gals told the guys to choose a life-partner based on family values and inner qualities, not superficial ideals.

It’s customary to wear white clothing on Yom Kippur to symbolize angelic energy and the transparency of our souls.

Story Two:

Yom Kippur 2020 falls on the year of a pandemic and an onslaught of heartbreaking news. During the 1848 cholera epidemic in Russia, Rabbi Israel Salanter (founder of the Mussar movement) declared that Yom Kippur to be a day when Jews would work to provide for the sick and eat to preserve their strength, instead of fasting.

Rabbi Salanter ate and drank at his shul on Yom Kippur in the year of the cholera epidemic and told his congregants to do the same.

I suggest we follow the lead of the young Jerusalemite ladies and Rabbi Salanter, by feeding ourselves in body, mind and soul…

Reinforce your value system
Decide what you need to let go

Embrace transparency
Dance in white clothes

And let us say, Amein.

May we be inscribed and sealed in the book of LIFE for a peaceful and restorative 5781.

32 thoughts on “Yom Kippur: Breaking the Mold

    1. The Wild Pomegranate//Abi

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Silk Cords. Glad you’re here on this journey. Imparting new knowledge makes me a happy camper. Abundant blessings!


  1. Once again, you take something and hold it like a piece of glass that you turn into a prism. “At-one-meant” — the reflected and refracted light from this one phrase alone has sent me into this day with new commitment and new joy in the journey. Somehow holding in one part of my soul the need for my own atonement along with the sensory delights in being alive in another part of my soul — and trying to see how those two sides of soul can be transformed into “shalom” — wholeness. Thank you, and to you and yours, May your names be written in indelible ink in The Book of Light — Jane

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate//Abi

      So glad you’re here with me, Jane, to read and reflect.

      “Somehow holding in one part of my soul the need for my own atonement along with the sensory delights in being alive in another part of my soul — and trying to see how those two sides of soul can be transformed into “shalom” — wholeness.”

      Amein, amein!! I absolutely love your summation and the fact that you remembered the root words of Shalom are shelem v’ shlemut (completeness and wholeness). 👏👏👏

      I extend my heartfelt thanks and abundant appreciation to you for your wise and wonderful comment! 💓💓💓

      L’chayim! 🥂I’m praying and voting for a better 2021/5781.


  2. Shaina

    I am so jazzed about your beautiful and informative D’rash. My dad said, to my mom every Shabbat, the proverb, ” A woman of valor who can find her prices is far above rubies. It ends with charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who reveres the Lord she shall be praised. I love this proverb. It comforts me and reminds me of our family tradition. I really love what you share because there is enough T’suras in the world that I do not need to create more. During a precarious time of a pandemic, you cleverly give words of encouragement. Your Parshot are conducive to joy and delight. I just really need to sooth my Nishamah. The soul is more important than superficial stuff and aesthetics,, which dissipate. I love you, dear Abi, my precious Rebi.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Hiya-

          I would be very curious to have your thoughts on the extended exchange that I’ve been having with my friend Peter B. in the comments section of this post: https://skepticskaddish.com/2020/09/25/keyboard-judaism/ (you have to scroll all the way down because the exchange is broken up a bit between different comments)

          I would appreciate your perspective, if you’re willing to share it. Feel free to comment on that same post, or wherever you want.

          All best,

          Liked by 1 person

          1. The Wild Pomegranate//Abi

            I looked through the thread and will throw my two cents into the hat. In my personal experience, Jews from heterodox denominations do not know that Heaven and Hell exist in Judaism and often disseminate that misconception as a firm and unwavering absolute.

            Every Jewish concept in the following post is generally unknown in heterodox Judaism. https://thewildpomegranate.net/2020/04/18/heaven-hell-astral-projection-and-reincarnation/

            I find the heterodox branches (such as Reform) to be spiritual and enjoyable in many ways, but there are omissions which I don’t feel do us justice as a rich, diverse, mystical and multi-dimensional faith. As much as I enjoy heterodox Judaism, I think its unfortunate that so many meaningful Jewish beliefs were eliminated from the conversation.


                    1. I’m not so sure that ‘Sheol’ is a “thing” in the Orthodox community either. I’ve only read about it in the context of a Torah era believe system that doesn’t really exist nowadays… Have you heard Orthodox religious leaders or scholars speak about it as something that they believe in?

                      Gehenom, yes – but, as you wrote, that’s popularly thought of as the purgatory that I was referring to. (agree to disagree 😉 )

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. The Wild Pomegranate//Abi

                      Hell is a hot topic (pun intended) of inquiry, which Chasidic rabbis frequently address. When studying Kabbalah, Sheol was described as “the lowest level of purgatory.”

                      Gehinnom was described by Jewish Sages as a place of fire and torment, but it got upgraded to “purgatory” where souls go to be “cleansed” before their debut in Heaven.

                      My goal was to simply impart the knowledge, since so many Jews never learn it in mainstream Judaism. We have beliefs in the Afterlife, as all religions do. It’s theology for heaven’s sake. 😁 (Another pun intended). It goes with the territory.

                      Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate//Abi

      Shaina, it’s always a delight and my pleasure to see you here! Abundant thanks and gratitude for your wonderful comment and the wisdom of your reflections! I love the drashot you share as well through your comments.

      My neshama is uplifted to know that it’s in sync with yours. I don’t connect to the superficial aesthetics either (love the way you expressed that) — I need substance that will lift my spirit and carry me through the harsh reality of this present moment, not more burdens and tsuris. I’m deeply honored and blessed to be called your Rebi.


  3. Phil R Sutherland

    If I am not mistaken, the Kittle that is worn on Yom Kippur has the same reflection and is directly connected to the Ladies who wore the white dresses. It is a time of purity and forgiveness. I totally concur with your admonition that we turn this time from a day of fasting into a celebration considering what trials and tribulations we have already experienced this year. We should consider this day a festive day because it should be celebrated that G-d forgave us on this day for the sin of the golden calf, Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the second set of Luchot (tablets). Therefore, G-d established this day Yom Kippur as a day of forgiveness, something to be celebrated and we should follow the example of Rabbi Salanter and the ladies of Jerusalem in celebration of our Atonement before G-d!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate//Abi

      Maybe I’ll post about the Kittel. Good topic! Traditionally, a Jewish man wears a Kittel for the first time on his wedding day. After that, on Yom Kippur as well as Pesach and Rosh Hashanah is some communities. In the end, a person’s Kittel becomes their burial shroud…completing the circle from marriage to grave.

      I would like to see Yom Kippur incorporate more joyous elements, while keeping our obligation to atone directly to anyone we have hurt knowingly or unknowingly.

      Many thanks for your readership and your reflections on the posts. I appreciate both very much! 👍😊🤩


  4. Another interesting and informative post, Abi. I particularly like the concept of reaching out to others asking for forgiveness for any hurts, as well as trying to make amendments, which is equally as important. Means that there is at least one day a year for some deep thinking and introspection on our behaviour toward others. Critical in these times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate//Abi

      Thanks for your presence and reflections, Len!! We’re supposed to take a “cheshbon” — an “accounting” of all our behaviors during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In what ways have I made the world better? In what ways have I made it worse? How do I affect the lives of others? Are their lives easier or harder because of my behavior?

      It is said that GD does not forgive us for person-to-person sins on Yom Kippur, unless we have sought forgiveness and made amends directly to anyone we have hurt knowingly or inadvertently.

      We all need to do this at least once a year. I hope our crisis will be over soon and there will be better times ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have never heard the connection between Yom Kippur and shmirat haguf, but I like it. I am really not into the overemphasis on fasting on a conceptual level – I think it encourages reckless, unhealthy behavior, shames people who cannot fast, making fasting the single most important mitzvah of the day is the exact opposite of what Isaiah is telling the people to do in the Haftarah read YK morning, etc. (I may write my own post on this sometime…) I think we need to focus on other elements aside from the self-affliction!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate//Abi

      The YK Haftorah is one of my favorite readings to discuss. I almost included it, but I it made my post too long. I get verklempt thinking they’re too long 🤪 and always try to make them shorter. The haftory covers a lot of territory and would make for a great post all on it’s own.

      Thank you for visiting with me and commenting! 🖖😊


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