Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, takes place this Tuesday evening through Wednesday. On this day, also known as the Day of Atonement, one refrains from eating and drinking, and spends most of the day in the synagogue engaged in prayer.
Much of the liturgy focuses on repentance, confession, and seeking forgiveness. Yet Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz reminds us that Yom Kippur is one of the two most joyous days of the Jewish year, and truly a gift: “Yom Kippur is a day of forgiveness, reconciliation and opportunity for a new beginning” (Yom Kippur – Taking Responsibility for our Lives).
Similarly, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in the Koren Yom Kippur Machzor (2012, lxviii-lxx), calls Yom Kippur a day of transformation, a day when we renew our relationships with other human beings, with G-d, and with ourselves. It is a time we are given another chance, to “begin again.”
I believe there is inspiration and meaning for all of us in the message of Yom Kippur. As Erica Brown writes, we can use our renewed “energy to radiate love, to get a little closer to the people we care about, to bring G-d into our lives, to make someone else’s life a little better” (Return, Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe, p.141)