Yom Kippur is the most sacred day of the year for the Jewish people. Known as the day of Atonement - it is a day of reflection. To think of all the ways that you may have behaved badly in the year that has passed and how you can make the upcoming year better. It is a holiday like most Jewish Holidays that is filled with music and prayer. The music for Yom Kippur is exceptionally beautiful. At Temple Emanuel which was my Temple growing up (my great grandfather was a Rabbi there) and where I spent over 40 Yom Kippurs, they have an amazing choir and organist. Sitting through the Kol Nidre is like attending a concert. I always feel as though I should clap at the end. The actual music is sooooo beautiful, thought provoking and very moving. At my current Temple - Temple Israel there is a cellist who plays and it is amazing. At Temple Emanuel there is a soloist during the Avinu Malkanu who reaches the most beautiful note - it truly is awe inspiring.
This has become a very difficult holiday for me. When we were very young we attended the Family Service but as I got older I went with my grandmother every year to Kol Nidre and when she could no longer go my father and I went together. The afternoon, Yizkor and Neilah services were always attended only by my Father and Grandmother as the Yizkor service was for mourning. My father who lost his entire family to the Nazis and my grandmother who mourned her father the Rabbi her whole life would go to this special service. Since losing my grandmother in 2001 and my father in 2006 I always attend the afternoon services. I feel closer to them during it. I am however always very emotional and come home very drained.
I do however always feel much more whole and refreshed on some level from the experience. I am ready to do better in the following year and move forward.
The Jewish people have two rituals that I think are so much better than many other religions (in my opinion). One is Yom Kippur- we have the opportunity to repent to G-D for all of our wrongdoings over the past year and really reflect on them and think about how we can do better in the following year- be kinder, more caring, more helpful, more respectful. Taking one day to do this makes sense to me. You do not have to ask forgiveness daily or weekly for each little sin but can just contemplate, ask forgiveness and move forward.
Regarding death, I think the Jewish people have this right as well. The dead are buried immediately but rather than have the family come home to an empty house where sadness and loneliness prevail they sit Shiva. Shiva is a period of mourning for 7 days where friends and family join the mourners and are there to support them. Having family and friends comforts the bereaved and can almost "distract" them form the huge weight of their loss. At the end of seven days while the loss is still horrific the pain has lessened somewhat and it is a little easier to go on.
As I reflect on Yom Kippur and my own sadness I am so happy to be part of the amazing community to which I belong. I find my Temple really is a home and a place i am comfortable going. I am happy to have a large community of friends and acquaintances through our Temple and love the feeling of togetherness on Yom Kippur afternoon as well as at Friday Night Services.
La Shana Tovah.