How many are we?

There's our animal self, which hungers and lusts and bares its fangs when its turf is challenged; our emotional self, which loves and fears, exults and agonizes; our intellectual self, which perceives and analyzes and contemplates the other selves with smug detachment; our spiritual self, which strives and yearns, worships and venerates. There's the self you were at the age of 8, and the self you're going to be at 80. There's the self I was last Tuesday, when I woke up in a foul mood, snapped at my kids, cowered before my boss, stabbed my co-workers in the back and hung up the phone on my mother-in-law; there's the self I'm going to be tomorrow, when I'll be loving to my family, respectful but firm with my boss, and kind, fair and considerate to everyone else.

How can we possibly imagine that in the conglomerate of cells, organs and limbs we call our "body", extending across the rises and furrows of the terrain we call "time", there resides a single and singular "I"?

But somehow we are convinced of this. We can't identify it or describe it, nor do our day-to-day lives reflect it. But we know that it's there. Which means that it is; otherwise, where would this knowledge spring from?

A single "I" means that our animal, emotional, intellectual and spiritual selves have a common source and a common goal. It means that all the moments of our lives are interlinked: what we are today and what we will do tomorrow is the sum and result of what we were and did yesterday and the day before. A single "I" means that the past is redeemable. A single "I" means that we can achieve harmony in our lives.

The Torah refers to the day of Yom Kippur as achat bashanah, "once a year." But the Hebrew words achat bashanah also translate as "the one of the year." Yom Kippur, explain the Chassidic masters, is the day that our intrinsic oneness rises to the surface.

For 364 days a year, the fragments of our life and personality lie dispersed throughout the chambers of our soul and strewn across the expanses of space and time. On Yom Kippur, we are empowered to unite them with their source and point them towards their goal.