Today is the holiest of all holidays for the Jewish religion. It is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. It is the day when we have conversations with G-d and ask G-d for forgiveness for our sins that we committed throughout the year. We are supposed to fast on this day and break the fast at sundown after we hear the shofar blow one last note significantly concluding the high holy days.
What I have learned over the years is that on this most holiest of all holidays, there seems to be a lot of room for interpretation. Last night, my husband, mother-in-law and I were trying to explain fasting to our kids. We were coaxing them not to fast (they are children), but to find something to do a little differently on this one day. My daughter wants to try fasting “again.” Last year she made it a whole two hours! (Please G-d…please let me keep a straight face every time she mentions this today!) My son seems to refuse to believe that he has ever done anything wrong, so why would he have to repent at all? Hopefully (OMG!) that will come with maturity!
Then there were the grown ups. My mother-in-law is the most traditional with her fasting. She will only drink water, and she takes is very seriously. My husband drinks coffee and water, and he, as well, considers fasting to be something important that he holds to. I drink coffee and water and then usually make it until the late afternoon. I always break down when I start feeling shaky and weird. That’s about as far as I can go. I feel okay with that though, because in my mind, I want to feel hunger (Which believe me…by 3:00, I really do!), but I don’t think I should have to get sick over it.
My mother-in-law expressed to our kids, “Everybody does what’s right for them,” and I have to say, she is absolutely right. When you talk to Jews, there are so many different varieties of how we repent on this day. I believe that you have to be true to yourself, and if you can go to bed tonight with a clear conscience, then you are fine. A relationship to G-d is personal, and of course, it makes sense that there is a lot of different opinions on this topic.
My song of the day is by Sarah McLachlan. It is not one that I am too familiar with, but I thought it was perfect, as she wrote about “Forgiveness.” She writes:
And you ask for forgiveness
You’re asking too much
I have sheltered my heart in a place you can’t touch
(Click HERE to go to Youtube and to hear the song.)
On this day, we are asking G-d for forgiveness, but the other side of the coin (forgiving) seems such an appropriate and relevant topic for this day, too. If we can’t forgive and our hearts are closed, then how can we ask for our own forgiveness? That is what this holiday is all about…having an open heart and an open mind, being accepting of all others’ beliefs and cleansing out all of the bad stuff that weighs you down. In my opinion, to be forgiven, you must forgive.