Jewish Holidays Jewish Life

Reflections on Yom Kippur

Rabbi Jeff Glickman

By Rabbi Jeff Glickman ~

Many people find Yom Kippur to be the least fun day of the year.
Guess what, that is the way it is supposed to be.
Examining our failings isn’t a pleasurable activity.
However, Yom Kippur leads to a moment of deep happiness; happiness
which can extend throughout the year, and beyond.
So rarely do people find true and lasting happiness.  What is the
source of Yom Kippur’s ability to empower the faithful to emerge with
a thorough sense of well-being?
It has something to do with the melodies and the meanings of the
prayers.  It has something to do with the community coming together to
confess sins. It has something to do with the approaching God.
It has a lot to do with the fasting.
Seems ridiculous, huh, that fasting can lead to happiness?
Abstinence from the things we are bound to makes us realize that we
are stronger than those things that bind us.
Having no food, makes us realize we don’t have to be a slave to our cravings.
No washing, perfumes or sex, makes us realize that we are greater than
our bodies.
When the entire community comes together for an admission of sins, we
are proclaiming in a loud and unified voice that we are not slaves to
the ideal of perfection.
In the throes of a family crisis, I took up running.  It liberated me
from being bound to being sorry for myself.  Starting out every
morning, I found myself repeating the words of Dr. King, “Free at
last! Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
I realized, I could shatter the shackles of self pity and sadness
which held me down.  It made me realize I don’t have to be trapped.
So I began asking the question, “What are we bound to?”  It tells a
great deal about us.
Is there anything we are so intricately bound to that we can not
separate ourselves?
We are bound to our jobs, but many can leave the work at the office or
other job site.
We are bound to our families, but many of us find a way to take a few
personal moments in the day.
However, there is something we allow ourselves to be intertwined with
as though it were part of our very being.
The cell phone.
We take it everywhere.  Even though we might turn off the sound, it
can still vibrate.
Is there any activity which we would not interrupt to see who is
calling when the phone vibrates?  Theater?
The bathroom?  Have you ever stopped brushing your teeth to check the
caller id?  I admit that I have.
The cell phone is different than our watches of old (remember what
they were?).  They were bound to our wrist like a taskmaster of time
linked to our pulse.
Our cell phones are more than that.  They are a juxtaposition of where
we are, what we are listening to, our entertainment, our payments, our
business, our memory…
If you dare, I challenge you to leave your phone at home, in a drawer,
and not to take it out for the entire Yom Kippur.  You won’t believe
how liberating it will be.
Yom Kippur is not a fun holiday, but it is one with deep happiness at
its core.  It liberates us from those things that bind us, and brings
us back to life.

Rabbi Jeff Glickman is spiritual leader of Temple Beth Hillel in South Windsor.

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