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Yom Kippur Essays

Essays on the Holiday's Themes

A selection of essays that shed light on the nature of Yom Kippur, and its dominant theme -- teshuvah (repentance).

Forgiveness Begins at Home
As hard as forgiveness can be between acquaintances, it's still child's play compared to the guts and humility it takes to drive the two-way street between ourselves and those closest to us.
Is Suffering Normal?
The comfort and security that life today affords has somehow convinced us that suffering is abnormal, and that we must do everything in our power to avoid it or negate it, run away from it or erase it. The catch is that life is still full of suffering...
A Soul of Linen or Gold
Doesn't it seem strange that the High Priest wouldn't dress in his finest gold garments for his meeting with the Almighty in the Holy of Holies?
You Matter
Can't I just forget about the past and move on?
I think that if I focus on this past year I will only feel guilty and depressed. Can't I just forget about the past and move on?
Getting Going
A Yom Kippur machzor (prayerbook) is a one-day tool; unlike the standard siddur or Rosh Hashanah machzor, there is no second day use for this prayer book.
Time is Relative
What happened in the past is behind us in the rearview mirror. The future looms ahead, just beyond the horizon. Is there any way to circumvent this seeming unavoidable truth?
Enter the Holy of Holies
Every Jewish person is a potential temple for G‑d, and every individual is the serving high priest in his or her personal temple. The goal of the Yom Kippur prayer service is to access the Holy of Holies of this temple...
The Gift of Forgiveness
From my perspective as a family therapist, the greatest treasure in our Torah-inheritance is the instruction to free ourselves of anger and resentment...
The Blame Game
The stress of the morning reached its crescendo, and I proceeded to lay down my royal flush of emotional cards in my epic battle to win the "blame game" with my husband...
How to Change the Past
We are physical beings, and the laws of physics (at least as they stand now) dictate that time runs in one direction only. Yet for some reason, we just won't let go. We continue to feel responsible for what was, continue to regard our past as something that still "belongs" to us and which we can somehow "fix"
The Nusach Ari Synagogue
A forgotten synagogue, with forgotten people, who were themselves from a forgotten time and a forgotten land . . .
On Yom Kippur we embrace. Our harmony is no longer a harmony of "should", but a harmony of "is". All is forgiven. At onement
Yom Kippur Online
My soul is like a hard drive, slow and sluggish from accumulated data. Once a year I run the Yom Kippur program, and cull the extraneous files...
Temper Your Ecstasy
The Yom Kippur Torah reading begins with the words: "The L-rd spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they drew near before the L-rd, and they died." What bearing does this prefatory verse have on our personal Yom Kippur service?
The Benefits of Bankruptcy
A person must be given the ability to have a new start, because it is virtually impossible to put together the broken pieces of what was hitherto a mismanaged financial ledger while burdened by unbearable debt. The same is true in a spiritual sense...
The Story of Your Life
You are Jonah. The real you, for “Jonah”—in Kabbalistic parlance—is another name for the soul. Hence, the story of Jonah is the story of a soul’s journey here on earth.
Finishing Strong
When Neilah, the final prayer of the long day starts we may find ourselves out of gas. Drained, back hurting, the guy next to me has bad breath and I have nothing left to give...
Day One
How can we possibly imagine that in the conglomerate of cells, organs and limbs we call our "body", extending across the hills and valleys of the terrain we call "time", there resides a single and singular "I"?
Repentance Is a Trap
The real way to do Yom Kippur
Why waste the holiest day of the year dwelling on everything you messed up?
The Joy of Sin?
I find Yom Kippur depressing. Why spend a day focusing on our sins and failures? Do we need to be reminded how far we are from being perfect?
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