Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Purification is the awesome gift of the day.

On an external level, Yom Kippur is a day of affliction—not eating, not washing, confessing our sins, feeling remorseful for all the mistakes we have made individually and collectively. There is much pain and suffering on micro and macro levels in the world today that if we are not mindful and do not understand the essence of the holiday, we could be easily disheartened.

1. Liberation From the Tyranny of Ego

On the internal level, on the inside of the inside, Yom Kippur is the most joyous day of the year. By spiritually uniting with the community of Israel, we are given the opportunity as well as the support, both Divine and communal, to liberate ourselves from the stifling hold that materialism and physicality have had in defining who we are. We release ourselves from the tyranny of the ego that inflicts us with its fragmented, narrow, self-serving limiting conversation.

On Kol Nidre, we release all such vows taken consciously and unconsciously that have blocked the flow of goodness in our lives in a way we couldn’t do at another time.

2. Transmitting Forgiveness

“On the tenth day of the month (Tishrei) it is a day of atonement, a holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves.”1

Though we do not eat, we do not wash and pray all day, we are happy for we experience, paradoxically, that the restrictions of Yom Kippur do not make us enslaved or limited, but actually make us free—allowing us to become the kind of vessel able to receive the transmission of awesome holiness, love and forgiveness of the day.

On Yom Kippur, we do not eat physical food; rather, we are fed heavenly manna of love. We do not wash, for we are bathed in Divine compassion. Our slate is wiped clean; we are like newborn babes, ready to be ushered into the sukkah for seven days of coddling and embracing with G‑d and each other.

3. Experiencing Release and Wholeness

“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d.”2

Everything on Yom Kippur is designed to facilitate this kind of psychological and emotional release, which opens us to the clarity of who we really are. Out of our willingness to feel our brokenness and vulnerability, reviewing what we have done wrong, we become stronger and more whole.

We are in essence Divine holy beings with pure shining loving souls that existed before our bodies even came into being. We simply need to let go of limiting, illusory and false concepts of the self that we have misidentified as ourselves.

4. Reservoirs of Divine Compassion

“L‑rd, L‑rd, benevolent G‑d, Who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, preserving lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, rebellion and sin, and He pardons.”3

On Yom Kippur, we repeat the Thirteen Attributes of Compassion as they were revealed to Moses. Sung like a mantra, these words are a formula for invoking Divine compassion. As important as it is to reflect on the “sins” we have committed, to feel regret and make rectification, it’s equally important to take refuge in the reservoirs of Divine compassion to allow ourselves to experience forgiveness and unconditional love.

5. Bonding With Community

It is a tremendous gift to pray in a congregation on Yom Kippur for what we can do together is greater than what we can do alone. To be in the company of people who are strong enough to acknowledge that they are vulnerable human beings and as people have all made mistakes is a powerful bonding experience. We also receive much more Divine light and grace when we feel responsible for the community than we would as isolated individuals.

May we each be blessed with such a joyful, holy Yom Kippur that we feel so full from receiving the love and connection from G‑d on this holy day that we have no desire for anything else. May we feel cleansed of all the inner and external barriers that have limited us in the past and claim ourselves as the pure and holy souls and wonderful beings that we really are. May our prayers also help remove some of the impurities and negativities in the world. May we each create such a powerful vortex of light around us that everyone in our path is lifted up by our radiance and love.