This Sunday and Monday, everyday life will come to a halt for millions of Jews in Israel and around the world as they observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Hebrew calendar, when God instructed Israel to atone for its sins. The Torah tells us: “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work – whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you – because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you.” (Leviticus 16:29-30)
On Yom Kippur, Jews refrain from work, fast from food and drink, and spend most of the day in prayer in synagogue. They ask God for forgiveness, seek forgiveness from their neighbors, and deny themselves their usual comforts and indulgences. At the heart of all this is a very simple and urgent call.
The “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” as Yom Kippur is known, is similar to certain periods in other religions, and in 12 Step programs, because it asks us to take time out of our lives and make a serious personal assessment of the state of our behaviors and our beliefs. What kind of lives have we been leading? Are we treating our family, friends, employer, and employees as we would want them to treat us? Have we deliberately or accidentally caused harm to another? Are we following the principles we believe in? Or treating others as we want to be treated? Are we making the world a better place, or not caring, or putting our profit and needs first?
For those of us with food issues, this is a good time to examine what we are doing and why. What is needed to change us into the people we want to become?
And for those of us with food issues, may your resolution be to treat the body with dignity and respect. Choose high nutrient foods, in amounts your body needs. Sit down to eat. (if no chairs are available, just use the floor!) Eat with the proper utensils. Taste the food, enjoy it, savor it. Care for the body.
If you eat high calorie, processed, nutrient free foods, ……. why? What need do they serve? Is this consistent with your recovery goals?
Yom Kippur, and similar holidays, are meant to show us where we have fallen short in our duty to God and our neighbors. It reminds us that our times on Earth are limited, and that one day we will have to notice what we have or have not accomplished. In this respect, it is a solemn and sobering day.
But Yom Kippur also offers us a much-needed reminder that we can still correct our course and return to the right path before it is too late. In the Christian faiths, this kind of event may happen closer to Easter. In the Twelve Step program, this might be related to the Fourth Step. But nowhere is it practiced with the commitment and focus that Yom Kippur brings
Yet, we all need to take time to look at how we are running our lives and ask ourselves if we are creating the lives we want, the lives we were meant to have. What are the changes we need to make?
Politically and culturally, our world is deeply divided. The world is fraught with wars and massive humanitarian crises – there are currently more than 40 active conflicts around the world. In the United States, we now struggle with managing a virus, and prepare for a Presidential election.
Thus, Yom Kippur should be welcomed by Jews and non-Jews alike as an invitation to stop and reflect on the current state of ourselves and our societies. It’s an opportunity for all of us to look within and resolve to be instruments of peace, brotherhood and reconciliation.
This time can serve as a reminder that we can affect the outcome of many problems by our own thoughts and behavior. We who believe can turn to our Higher Powers in a spirit of true humility and repentance. This is reason for hope and great thanksgiving – especially during these difficult and divisive times.
As Rabbi Pressman has written: “So, my prayer for us all is: may we in the coming days and months be able to evict an offender from our brains, purge the poison from our souls, and let go of the red hot grudge poker, and by doing so, may we find peace, reconciliation, serenity, and joy. Amen.”
May you have a blessed holiday: Tzom Kal and G’mar Chatima.
Blessings to you,
These are the greetings for Yom Kippur:
Tzom Kal – wishing you an easy fast
G’mar Chatima Tovah May you be sealed for good in the book of life
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