Yom Kippur

For years I conceptualized Yom Kippur in a fairly traditional way. It was the day on which I went to the synagogue and prayed as honestly, as reverently, and as fervently as I could to be granted another year—a year in which I would become a better person and avoid all of the negative actions that I had either knowingly or unknowingly performed in the previous years of my life.

But this year is different. This year I lived through an illness that had me thinking that I might just be meeting my maker sooner than planned. Once healthy, I went off to adventures in China. And then, last week, Rosh Hashana, I once again became ill. This time, it was much less serious, but this time I was unable to attend services the second day of Rosh Hashana. The meaning for me was clear: I was not welcome at services. I had too much to account for. I needed to take a very long, hard look at myself.

Since then, I have been thinking about the way I treat people in a much more conscious, self-conscious way. And then yesterday… We were in Jerusalem to run some errands. I walked into one of my favorite stores. The tape or CD playing in the store was one that was presumably humorous, but the first song that I noticed made me cringe: “dead puppies aren’t much fun” or something like that. As I listened, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would think that joking about dead dogs would be funny. The next song, “they’re coming to take me away” was worse. It made fun of human beings in pain. After only a few bars, I quickly left the store. I had to leave. All I could make of the experience was that the songs were injuring my soul. How could I allow my soul, which I strive to purify in anticipation of the holiest day of the year, be polluted by such crass and callous satire?

When I got out of the store, it was as if I could finally breathe again. I felt as if I had rescued a child from a fire. I had brought my soul away from something that would injure it and make it less sensitive and caring and perfect before G-d.

I thought a lot about that yesterday and today. And today I will approach Yom Kippur with a new commitment to those things which are good and kind and benevolent and ennobling. I have a new appreciation of the fragility of the soul and our need to protect it. Today I will pray to be worthy of increasing goodness in the world and truly becoming a servant of G-d.

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