The past few years, I've prayed on the High Holidays in a wonderful and homey synagogue in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. There's always a flurry of activity as I walk into the sanctuary before the Kol Nidrei prayers; some devoted volunteers finishing off the last minute preparations, setting up the extra chairs for the anticipated overflow crowd. The scores of men and women who invariably wander in for their requisite once-a-year synagogue service.

In this inviting congregation, these people are kindly greeted as they enter, handed prayerbooks (and kippahs for the men) and shown to an unreserved seat. But despite the warm atmosphere, their self-consciousness is plainly evident, as they constantly cast not-so-furtive glances at the experienced congregants to make sure that they are doing the right thing.

I've often wondered, who are these people? And what motivates them to come to the synagogue on Yom Kippur? If they believe in G‑d and seek atonement, if their Judaism is meaningful to them, where are they the rest of the year?

We can be angry at each other, we can try to pretend that that the other doesn't exist. All to no availOf late, however, it has occurred to me that the question should in fact be reversed. It's clear that these people come to the synagogue on Yom Kippur for the proper reasons. But what about me? Do I have the proper intentions and the appropriate Yom Kippur frame of mind?

Allow me to explain...

Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement," is the day when G‑d forgave us for a monumental perfidy. A few weeks after we lovingly accepted the Torah and pledged to G‑d our eternal allegiance, we made an about turn and created and worshipped a Golden Calf. Absolutely flabbergasting. Was there any reason for G‑d to forgive this heinous betrayal?

He did. On Yom Kippur. Because our relationship isn't grounded in logic, or even rational emotion. Our relationship is intrinsic, both to us and to G‑d. We can be angry at and disenchanted with each other, we can try to walk away from and pretend that that the other doesn't exist anymore. All to no avail.

That's why He forgave us on that first Yom Kippur, and why He continues to forgive us every year thereafter.

The Jew who visits the synagogue once annually on Yom Kippur is a testament to this idea. His entire year may be spent trying to ignore the relationship. But on Yom Kippur, when our indestructible relationship with G‑d is bared, he's back in G‑d's home. His prayers are pure and true; emanating from the core of his soul. He has no grandiose pretenses of piety and spirituality. He's merely a child returning to the place he belongs—his Father's bosom.

He represents what Yom Kippur is all about. I'm envious.

Now, I'm not advocating limiting synagogue attendance to once a year. But this Yom Kippur I will be looking around, trying to gain inspiration from the once-a-yearers. I may know the tunes that they don't; I actually know when to sit and when to stand, when to cry and when to clap with joy. But when it comes to approaching G‑d in a Yom Kippur frame of mind, I have much to learn from them.