Yom Kippur - The Loneliest Day of the Jewish Year
We get a clear hint about the radical uniqueness of Yom Kippur when we look at the traditional translation of Yom Kippur as the Day of Atonement. To some, this breaks down as the Day-of-at-one-ment, the time we are commanded to be alone. Even though we can be surrounded by others, Yom Kippur requires us to spend a significant amount of time alone so we can do the necessary “soul accounting” that is required in order for us to atone for our wrongs. (We certainly have enough alone time on Yom Kippur - if you are not working, eating or shopping, there should be sufficient time for you to review the past year and identify all the areas where you fell short.)
The haftarah of Yom Kippur is from Isaiah where we are told “Don’t hide from your own flesh.” To me, the real meaning of this is don’t hide from who you really are, because sooner or later God or life will find you. It is a difficult and a lonely task to admit our failings and mistakes.
Do you know anyone who actually wants to admit their mistakes? I don’t. Yet, as hard as this is, as embarrassing as this can be, this is what we are commanded to do because acknowledgement of our mistakes is the beginning of the process that can lead to atonement and eventually teshuvah. If we cannot get past this first step, we are doomed to repeat our past mistakes in the year to come.
Only when we are alone can we summon the courage to reflect on the previous year -this is not a fun or joyous process, but it is an important one.
May you be sealed for a year of health and safety.
Rabbi Jim Simon