HomeSeptember 2013Smile! It’s Yom Kippur!

Smile! It’s Yom Kippur!

The goal of Yom Kippur is to realize a liberating “refocusing” of what we want out of our lives and a clearer sense of how to attain these goals.
The emotion best associated with Yom Kippur is yirah, which in Hebrew which translates (poorly) to “fear.”  Fear is when the rocks under your feet give way while mountain climbing; yirah, however, encompasses a combination of thrill, awe and fear.  It shares the root with the word ra’ah, which means to “see” and “apprehend.”  The yirah we feel on Yom Kippur is imbued with wisdom and insight.
Our High Holy Day prayerbook is peppered with the word chet which translates (again, poorly) to “sin,” when it really means to “make a mistake.”  The Jewish concept of sin emphasizes that making a mistake means we didn’t use our opportunities and personal potential properly.  Life offers us an immense array of options, and yet, many of us stay stuck in a spiritual box that cramps any chance of spiritual and moral exploration and advancement.

Internal Expansion
While the laws of Yom Kippur involve abstaining from eating, marital relations, working, wearing leather shoes and anointing the body with oils, it is imperative to understand that this isn’t to do God any favors!  Throughout the year, many of us spend our days focusing on almost nothing else besides food, sex, work, superficial material possessions (i.e., shoes) and other bodily pleasures (i.e., anointing).  But don’t equate Judaism with Puritanism.  The pleasures of this world are, in their proper time and place, encouraged and even mandated!
We’ve all heard the life lesson that states that no one on his deathbed regrets not having spent more time in the office or not eating more chocolate.  The regrets of those who are leaving this world involve not spending more time with loved ones, not using time more productively and not leaving a more significant impact on the world.  Yom Kippur asks us to question why we should wait until life passes us by to recognize what’s really important.
This is the reason that Yom Kippur involves 24 hours of uninterrupted soul searching (cheshbon nefesh).  It is the time to take two or three steps back and readjust our “value” lens, taking in the big picture.  It provides us with a blessed opportunity to embrace the yirah to realize that we are missing out because we’ve focused on the mundane, the popular, the trivial and frivolous.  By using our time to truly – and uncomfortably – regret our mistakes, we are free to purge ourselves and set our sights on what we really want out of life.
Jewish spirituality isn’t about retreat and running away to contemplate on a mountaintop.  It’s about relishing each moment as glorious and rife with an infinite potential for meaning, pleasure and growth.  Being “a little bit afraid” is good; it tells us that if we don’t try hard enough, we’re going to miss out on a life filled with incredible opportunities!
Shanah Tovah!

ELUL-TISHRI 5773-5774
Candle Lighting Times
and Torah Portions

Wednesday, September 4
Erev Rosh Hashanah
Light candles at 6:56 p.m.
Thursday, September 5
Rosh Hashanah
Light candles at 7:50 p.m.
Friday, September 6
Second Day of Rosh Hashanah
Light candles at 6:53 p.m.
Saturday, September 7
Torah Portion: Haazinu
(Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)
Friday, September 13
Erev Yom Kippur
Light candles at 6:43 p.m.
Saturday, September 14
Yom Kippur, Yizkor
Wednesday, Septermber 18
Erev Sukkot
Light candles at 6:36 p.m.
Thursday, September 19
Light candles at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, September 20
Light candles at 6:34 p.m.
Saturday, September 21
Sukkot Reading
Wednesday, September 25
Erev Shemini Atzeret
Light candles at 6:27 p.m.

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