Yom Kippur

This week is the Jewish holyday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Over the years my understanding of what it means and can mean has changed dramatically.

Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the year, a day of fasting and contemplation as Jews renew themselves spiritually for the new year that began officially nine days earlier. I once thought of it cynically as one long day of feeling badly and confessing misdeeds. Only later did I come to understand its value.

This is a day of renewal, a day of purification. On Yom Kippur we acknowledge our frailty as human beings as we resolve to be better people in the year ahead. In private contemplation, and in group prayer in the synagogue, we come to grips with our human failures and repent our errors. We have a chance to consider who we have been and begin to create who we want to become.

The liturgy is clear that praying is no substitute for making peace with those people we have wronged. You still have to do that directly. But for failures and errors of all kinds, Yom Kippur offers a chance to move forward with a fresh start.

Emotionally, Yom Kippur offers the opportunity to complete feelings that might have gotten stuck as unresolved emotion. Stuck feelings, we have seen, tend to persist in consciousness for as long as a lifetime. Every year at Yom Kippur I strive to complete lingering emotions from my actions and thoughts over the past year. It’s a wonderful exercise. Digging through the painful stuff can be difficult, but it allows me to emerge renewed on the other side, and only takes a day.

What do you need to do to clear up stuck emotions of the past and start anew? I promise you it is worth the effort.