Yom Kippur Is THE Day
We are a combination of body and soul. When we look at ourselves and at each other- it’s the body that we see. Yet, hidden behind the face, is our true essence, our soul. In fact, our soul is who we really are; our body is merely a vessel for carrying the soul through our life on earth. Our souls are the “breath” of the Almighty connecting us to Him. The little piece of G-d inside each and every one of us is what constitutes the core of human identity. G-d continually blows our life force in to us. Once a year, on Yom Kippur, we are given a day to let our souls take over and find their way closer to their Source.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were souls with wisps of body. Their souls defined them. Their bodies were not prominent and hardly perceptible. Once they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, everything changed. For the first time, they saw themselves as naked. They now had a new awareness of their physical selves, which was shocking and embarrassing. They tried to hide. The ability to see souls was lost and physicality sharpened into focus. In this state, they were exiled from the Garden.
Today, we are living in that post-Eden reality. Our bodies are front and center, while our souls are harder to access and remain mysterious. On Yom Kippur, we have the opportunity, the gift, to bring our souls back to the fore. It is the day of spiritual redemption.
We have several traditions that help us access our souls and become more angelic. Traditionally, we wear white, the color of angels, we don’t eat or drink, wash ourselves or use perfumes. We don’t have sexual relations and we don’t wear leather shoes.
Food is the glue that holds our soul-body combination together, keeping the soul tethered to its body. Fasting makes us feel a little faint – an indication that our souls are a little less connected. The day is designed for us to strip away elements and layers of physicality, so that we are able to connect to our inner selves.
Yom Kippur is also a day where forgiveness is in the air. On this very day, Go-d forgave the Jewish people for the monumental sin of the golden calf. G-d acted with mercy on this day. It is etched into the fabric of time as a day of forgiveness, and for us to repair and re-establish loving relationships. We are given a chance to start over, and bring things back to the way we wish they were.
Yom Kippur is a day full of potential, of chances to return. On this day G-d gives us the opportunity to clean away the dirt that has accumulated and obscured us throughout the year. By fasting and praying, we can shine and polish ourselves, we can step out of our bodies until our souls shine through once more. Yom Kippur is the chance to reconnect and repair our relationships with G-d and with each other. We can start all over again, to redefine ourselves, and be the people we want to be.
A soul by its very nature is always moving. Is it veiled in shadows or does it shine forth in our actions and deeds? Are we moving towards or away from G-d?
This day does not tolerate facades. On the holiest of days, the veils are lifted and the sheer truth of the living G-d breaks through all the walls; reaching even those who have tucked themselves away under a myriad of covers.
During the Yom Kippur liturgy, we repeatedly offer a prayer that starts with the words, ”G-d, G-d.” We say the name of G-d twice, recalling the abiding nature of our relationship with Him. G-d does not and will not reject us. Throughout the year, our souls have become clouded and we have become distanced from G-d, yet, He continues to love and sustain us throughout. Humanity was forever changed in the Garden of Eden, and though we stray, G-d’s forgiveness, faithfulness and mercy remain unwavering.
May we be blessed with a day of true return, to ourselves and to G-d.
Elissa Felder is a JWRP City Leader with the Providence Kollel.