Yom Kippur leads us to realize life itself is a gift and that gifts confer obligations. The more we receive, the more we become obligated to respond adequately.
The day after Yom Kippur, the synagogue service really should be a completely different experience from what people are used to. Yom Kippur should still be in the bones of all synagogue participants. Its spirit should still be felt with every prayer. It should be completely impossible for synagogue services to return to their old ways, in which prayers are said as if “nothing happened.”
Two new podcasts, plus an essay for Yom Kippur.
The call of the hour on Yom Kippur is this: a full day is given to us to realize that our lives are undeserved. Life is only great when it is earned through a dignified response.
It is Divine humor that tells us to live with absurdity, and supreme holy witticism that asks us to live with laughter. We are asked to enjoy the journey and realize that there is no arrival.
What is the source of religious passion? It is the awareness that something cannot become exhausted. To appreciate Judaism and see it as a blessing is to understand that just as the ocean is unfathomable, so Judaism transcends all interpretations. Understanding Judaism cannot be attained in the comfort of observing its laws or studying its texts. It occupies infinite space, beyond the limitations of the human mind and heart.
This awesome thought is the focal point of Yom Kippur. Am I worthy to have a claim on life? Or, have I been born but lost my right to live? This is by far the most important question for man to ask. The trembling of the earlier generations on Erev Yom Kippur was indeed that of great pachad (fear) – not fear of punishment or death, but of not rising to the challenge of living in God’s presence and fulfilling one’s destiny!
I would like to suggest that in the last few hundred years nearly all Jews have become marranos. Although no longer forced to convert to Christianity, or any other religion, they willfully adopt philosophies that estrange them from their Jewish roots. Alienation has become the very condition under which most Jews today live their lives. They believe that Judaism is outdated and needs to be replaced. Often they arrive at such conclusions due to a lack of Jewish knowledge and a greater familiarity with non-Jewish sources.
In former times, no hours were more extraordinary in our forefathers’ lives than those just before the onset of the awesome day, Yom Kippur. These comprised moments of such intense religious upheaval in the human soul that it was as if the world became a different planet, one in which all normal human needs and worries fell away.
In former times, no hours were more extraordinary in our forefathers’ lives than those just before the onset of the awesome day, Yom Kippur.