Yom Kippur: A Day for the Soul

October 06, 2019

Yom Kippur:  A Day for the Soul

Yom Kippur, the day of atonement is the holiest day of the year for Jews. We stand together as a community atoning for our sins, asking G-d to renew us for another year.

The evening of Yom Kippur begins with Kol Nidrei, in which we ask that vows and oaths that we have made throughout the year be forgiven so we can begin the New Year with a clean slate.

We recite the Viddui, or confessional prayers which list all the sins we might have committed in the past year. We’re meant to experience this in community, as we stand in solidarity with our fellow congregants, recounting our iniquities and pleading with G-d for forgiveness.

The observance of Yom Kippur requires a 24 hour fast, which in truth is what gets to the heart of this holy day. The intention is for us to shift our attention away from any physical or bodily needs, and instead focus completely on spiritual concerns. Fasting is a vehicle for reflecting and repenting for our sins, asking for forgiveness.

In the morning service we read from Isaiah 58: “This is my chosen fast; to loosen all the bonds that bind people unfairly, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked and turn toward those in need”. Isaiah explains another reason for our fast: the depravation we experience is meant to arouse our compassion for those who lack food and shelter.

For many people, Yom Kippur is a difficult day. By late afternoon, the hunger and caffeine headache set in, and it takes a lot of effort to focus. It’s not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be meaningful.

Dedicating 25 hours for prayer, reflection and fasting with our family and community is meant to help us lift our spirits higher, resolve to elevate our deeds, and move into the new year with our souls refreshed.
May you have a meaningful fast.

Rabbi Judith Beiner