Yom Kippur is arguably one of the most complained about holidays on the Jewish calendar. I believe that Pesach is a close 2nd. Here’s why I look forward to it instead of dreading it!
1 - It’s the ONE holiday that does NOT revolve around food
Coming off Rosh Hashana with prepping, shopping, cooking, serving, decorating, and entertaining. Many of us are feeling happy and fulfilled but also, to be honest, exhausted! It feels kind of like hosting three Thanksgiving meals for a big crowd in two days while attempting to make it to services (sometimes more successfully than others). Yom Kippur is a (welcome) break from thinking about, planning for and yes, eating food! Don’t worry, we get to do it all over again for Sukkot.
2 - Singular Focus
Without the food, meals and table scapes to think about, it becomes much easier to focus on the spiritual. More than that, at other times shul can be more social than spiritual. There’s less desire to chat when you might have a headache from fasting or caffeine withdrawal or are living on Listerine strips. It’s a gift - I know and feel connected to Yom Kippur prayers in a way that I don’t feel with most other holidays (could I do better the other holidays? Sure, but I’m just keeping it real). It is a chance to recharge your social battery during a very busy season. Yom Kippur makes it easy for us to focus on praying, listening, and reflecting. There’s no meal (here we go again with the food) to rush home to and get ready for and we’re all trying to conserve our energy to make it through the fast. Socializing is just too much energy.
3 - Style
This one may come as a surprise, but Yom Kippur actually has its own fashion style which is worthy of some appreciation. Yom Kippur is a prime example of embracing White After Labor Day. I love winter, spring, summer and fall whites. Many of us have that “Yom Kippur” white outfit, men have their kittel robes, and the white sneakers come out to play. The non-leather soled shoes end up being comfortable, which works out well! It’s a nice break from high heels. During a season of dressing up for holiday services and meals, anything goes; sneakers, flip flops, rain boots, lots of special footwear fashion - “Yom Kippur” shoes. Forgiveness fashion at its finest - it’s acceptable to wrap yourself in blankets and dress comfortably to get you through the day.
4 - Forgiveness
I love the idea of a clean slate. Every Yom Kippur, we start anew. This is something I personally struggle with. I recently saw a great quote: “Forgiving others is a gift we give ourselves”. Letting go of the emotional space that hurt or anger takes up is like releasing a huge weight. For some of us (myself included) it’s easy to forgive, but it’s hard to forget. Forgiveness is a way to let go the hurt, but forgiving doesn’t always mean we need to resume or pick up where we left off. Sometimes it means let go and move on, just in a different direction. One thing I’m working on is forgiving myself.
I often beat myself up for things I could have or should have done better, as a parent, a daughter, friend, and even on Instagram. I had a whole other blog post I attempted to write and rewrote and just couldn’t get it right. I’m not really a writer, I’m more of a sharer, and was feeling like a failure. I need to remind myself that we’re all just doing our best and need to forgive ourselves for the little things and the bigger things. (Thank you Rebbetzin Shoshanna Poupko for the inspiring class on the topic that inspired me to write this).
5 - The actual day of Yom Kippur itself atones
Just learned that even if you do nothing, the day itself atones. Even if you don’t make it to shul, if you aren’t able to focus, or if you literally sleep through the entire day, you’re still forgiven. Have a look to a reel shared by Dalia Oziel, based on an opinion by Rav Yehuda HaNasi.
6 - Favorite Dvar Torah
This may come as a surprise, but Yom Kippur is the subject of my Favorite Dvar Torah (and the only Dvar Torah I know). I don’t remember where I heard it so I can’t credit it but I do know it resonated so much it has stuck with me for several decades now. The holiest day of the year is a day (YOM) like (KI) PURIM. How is that even possible? They fall at opposite ends of the holiday spectrum. More on this to come closer to Purim but the gist is that Yom Kippur is thought of as the holiest day on the calendar. But it’s being compared to Purim, which is the most “fun” and food and drink centric holiday!
Yom Kippur is AS holy as Purim. How can that possibly be?
It’s EASY to be spiritual and observant in the confines of the rules of Yom Kippur. We’re in a “bubble.” There’s no meal to rush back and prepare for, the decibel level of chatter is close to nonexistent. And in that bubble, it’s quite simple to do what we came to do. But Purim is very much incorporated into the outside world and the things we do outside of a synagogue sanctuary. To take the outside world and infuse spirituality into it and be a part of both is what is truly holy.
On that note I need to go decide on my Yom Kippur whites…
So, I didn’t get to 10 (I hope you can forgive me) but there are still plenty of reasons to enjoy a holiday that is not always given the love & appreciation it deserves. Thanks to Yom Kippur for being my unsung hero on the Jewish Calendar.
Photo credits: Molly K