We are approaching the happiest time of the Jewish year. The Talmud records (Taanit 26b) that Yom Kippur is the most joyous of Jewish festival and relates that there used to be a custom back in the day that the young women of Jerusalem would express this joy by dancing together in the vineyards. The atmosphere of thousands of people dancing the day away – fasting and barefoot – must have been a massive boost to building the simcha (joy) of Yom Kippur.
Do we feel like dancing and singing on Yom Kippur? Actually, I know many people who really do. Someone once suggested to me that people love singing in the shower because it feels great to get clean. Yom Kippur is a special gift to the Jewish people – a day when we can really shed some of the grimy baggage that weighs us down for the rest of the year and make a serious commitment to healthy personal growth and development.
This is not the magic mumbling of lip-service confessional or the cynical adoption of New Year’s resolutions that we know we won’t keep. As one of my own mentors, Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits, once explained to me, the teshuva (repentance) of Yom Kippur is not some pretence that we will all be perfect tomorrow. We know full well that this will not happen. Real teshuva is (i) an honest analysis of who we are currently – what we do well and where we fail; (ii) an acceptance that we need to do better and a picture of how we ultimately wish to be when we reach our full potential and (iii) a realistic plan as to how to we can start right now to change a few small things that will set us on the route to achieving that goal.
This is the simcha of Yom Kippur – honesty about ourselves and the understanding that we really can improve in a slow and healthy step-by-step process. Let’s all try to tune into some of the incredible energy and potential of Yom Kippur. You may want to take a look at this link for lots of other ideas about the day – https://www.partnersintorah.org/jewish-holidays/yomkippur.
Who has time to eat and drink with such excitement in the air? Instead let’s kick off our shoes and go dancing in the vineyards around Jerusalem. Or, if you find yourselves far from this Holy City, reach into that place in your hearts and minds where you keep those special memories of Pathways in Israel and sing and dance wherever you are.
Best Wishes for a wonderful year