This evening marks the start of Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year of the Jewish calendar. It marks the end of The Ten Days of Repentance which started on Rosh Hashanah. On this day our fate is sealed, we hope to be written in the book of life, to have a year filled with good things, health and happiness. It’s a day of both reflection and anticipation.
Yom Kippur, is different from other Jewish Festivals. Apart from the meal before the festival begins and the meal when Yom Kippur is over there is no food. At no time during Yom Kippur do we sit together as a family and enjoy a meal. It is the only festival when we are ‘at one’. In fact the word atone is made up of those two words. At One. For this festival that last 25 hours we are indeed at one. We stand before g-d to be judged on our own. We do not stand with our family. On this day we are all individuals to be judged on our past year. For me this is also a good time to judge myself, to reflect on the past year, look back on my behaviour and to be honest with myself, have I been the best that I could? Could I have been better? I also look to the year ahead and promise to be a better person.
For me the most moving part of the service is when we sing Avinu Malkenu, it never fails to inspire me, to make me proud to be Jewish and promise to try to be a better person. During this time I renew my vow, not just to g-d but to myself, it is both Jewish and spiritual. It is something that is very personal, it is between me and the Almighty. I stand slightly taller, I pray that little bit harder. I promise to try. I also forgive both myself and others. It is a day to cleanse, we can wipe the slate clean, feel lighter.
In order to observe Yom Kippur we must fulfil three duties. Pray, repent and give to charity. By Prayer we connect with g-d, by repenting we connect with ourselves and by giving to charity we connect with others. Charity does not necessarily mean always giving money, we can give our time, we can help, we can volunteer. It’s a good time to see how we can help.
Yom Kippur is all about you, no one else. It is a festival when we reflect, connect and are ‘at one’. However you spend Yom Kippur and wherever you are my wish for each one of you is to be written in the ‘Book of Life’ and a year filled with everything you wish for yourselves and your family.
Wishing you well over the fast,