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.GOD
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:
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.
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
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.