Dear Readers,

It’s the hug you give your 2-year-old after she defiantly ignored your warnings, fell and scraped her knees, and then came running, sobbing, into your open arms. You hold her soothingly, assuring her that the hurt will heal and your love for her will be ever-present, even when she disregards your instructions.

It’s the hug you give your teenager after returning from a summer away at sleep-away camp. You missed her, even while you know that the drama of teenage life will continue to unfold as she tries to discover who she is and how she can express her independence—an independence from you. You hug her lovingly, assuring her that you will always be there as her support and foundation, no matter where she lands along her journey.

It’s the hug you give your spouse after a long drawn-out disagreement. Even more than coming to a compromise that respects each other’s perspectives, you are both tired of the coldness and distance that arguing brings. That hug means that you see beyond the specifics of what you disagree about to the love beneath the surface that is the enduring basis of your relationship.

It’s the embrace after a long day of Yom Kippur prayers as your stomach grumbles from lack of nourishment, just as the concluding prayers of Yom Kippur draw to a close. Throughout the day, you have prayed, and you’ve gotten in touch with a deeper part of yourself. You’ve admitted where you strayed and you resolved to make this a better, more purposeful year, even as you acknowledge that while you may succeed at some of your resolutions, you’re bound to fall and fail (yet again) with so many others.

The concluding prayer of this long day is called “Neilah,” which means “closing,” since on a simple level the gates of heaven that have been thrust wide open are now about to close. Chassidic philosophy, however, teaches us that on a deeper level, this isn’t about the heavens closing on us, but rather, that in this most auspicious time, we are “closed in” together with G‑d. G‑d is enveloping us in His presence, reassuring us of His love for us.

We’re about to embark on a brand-new year with fresh new intentions and objectives to grow. At this special moment, the climax of the holiest day of the year, G‑d assures us that teshuvah means that we have reached beyond the mistakes in our relationship to the essence of who we are. We are “closed in” with Him—completely surrounded by His loving embrace, a hug that sees beyond our falls and mess-ups, and that penetrates to the core of our connection, as G‑d’s child, always beloved. It is a hug that acknowledges that our connection is defined by more than our actions.

“Even though he has sinned, he is still Israel” (Sanhedrin 44a).

Wishing you an easy fast, and a holy Yom Kippur!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW