Saturday, October 4, 2014

Clarity And Closure

For the past week we have been thinking about the previous year and considering all the mistakes, missteps, and errors that we have made since the last time we asked G-d, and people, to forgive us for those things that we have done wrong. While I cannot recall having done any person wrong over the past year, that doesn’t mean that those issues don’t exist. I apologize to anyone I may have wronged.

However, given our interesting journey in Judaism over the past couple of years, it is important for me to acknowledge my lack of observance and maybe not knowing as much as I could and not studying the way that I should. For those things only G-d can forgive. And while I cannot swear to do one thing or another I ask to be forgiven for not finding the time to improve my faith. Thankfully, I know G-d to be far more understanding than is commonly thought as I have been given much more in this life despite my faults and errors.

This is a day when our humble confessions bring us closer to G-d. It is also on this day when I think about all those moments when G-d has, in one way or another, brought us closer to Him during the many days on the calendar. Anything from making me 5 minutes later in the morning to ensure I wasn’t involved in the pile up on the Pennsylvania Turnpike or blessing us with our first child after receiving difficult news from the doctor. Those are just two of the many moments that will continue to remind me of his presence.

So, in light of the confessions above, I am posting the following description of this holy day as posted on It will both provide many people with some new information and give the rest of us a few moments to reflect on the day and this particular time of year when we bring ourselves closer to G-d. Sometimes just reading and absorbing can block out the distractions of the day and bring us that moment of light and clarity that we seek during this time of year.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year—the day on which we are closest to G‑d and to the quintessence of our own souls. It is the Day of Atonement—“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d” (Leviticus 16:30).

For nearly twenty-six hours—from several minutes before sunset on 9 Tishrei to after nightfall on 10 Tishrei—we “afflict our souls”: we abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint our bodies, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from marital relations.

Before Yom Kippur we perform the Kaparot atonement service; we request and receive honey cake, in acknowledgement that we are all recipients in G‑d’s world, and in prayerful hope for a sweet and abundant year; eat a festive meal; immerse in a mikvah; and give extra charity. In the late afternoon we eat the pre-fast meal, following which we bless our children, light a memorial candle as well as the holiday candles, and go to the synagogue for the Kol Nidrei service.

In the course of Yom Kippur we hold five prayer services: Maariv, with its solemn Kol Nidrei service, on the eve of Yom Kippur; Shacharit—the morning prayer, which includes a reading from Leviticus followed by the Yizkor memorial service; Musaf, which includes a detailed account of the Yom Kippur Temple service; Minchah, which includes the reading of the Book of Jonah; and Neilah, the “closing of the gates” service at sunset. We say the Al Chet confession of sins eight times in the course of Yom Kippur, and recite Psalms every available moment.

The day is the most solemn of the year, yet an undertone of joy suffuses it: a joy that revels in the spirituality of the day and expresses the confidence that G‑d will accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and seal our verdict for a year of life, health and happiness. The closing Neilah service climaxes in the resounding cries of “Hear O Israel . . . G‑d is one.” Then joy erupts in song and dance (a Chabad custom is to sing the lively “Napoleon’s March”), followed by a single blast of the shofar, followed by the proclamation, “Next year in Jerusalem.” We then partake of a festive after-fast meal, making the evening after Yom Kippur a yom tov (festival) in its own right.