REPENT

Yom Kippur is the Day of Repentance. It is the chance to fix the things in our lives that need a little repair. Jewish tradition gives us a clear prescription of how to do this, in four stages: REFLECT Think about what you have done, the relationships you have and where your life is going. RESOLVE Decide to make a change, think about the future and imagine what is possible. If you need to fix a relationship, consider talking to your friend or partner, and asking for forgiveness. RESIST Next time the same situation presents itself, know that you will avoid the mistakes and do what is really right for you.

RESOLVE

REFLECT

REPENT Consider the things that you think have gone wrong for you or the mistakes you have made. Experience the regret and mourn the loss.

The Jewish mystics had a completely different approach. They thought that focusing on what went wrong can lead to depression. Instead, they taught that we should focus on what went right. We should remember and focus on the moments of which we are most proud. We should concentrate on seeing ourselves at our best moments. This leads to a very positive, self-confident self-image. By focusing on our best moments we increase the likelihood of having more of them.
TO DO: Make a list of the moments in the last year in which you were the most proud of yourself.

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DO NOT EAT

FASTING IS THE CENTRAL ELEMENT OF YOM KIPPUR. IT DEFINES MOST PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCE OF THE DAY. ONE OF THE IDEAS BEHIND FASTING IS THAT IT SHOCKS YOU OUT OF YOUR NORMAL ROUTINE AND FORCES YOU TO LOOK AT YOUR LIFE AND REFLECT ON IT.

According to Jewish tradition, fasting is not the only prohibition on Yom Kippur. It is also forbidden to wash, wear perfume, wear leather shoes, and have sexual relations. Why so many limitations? The goal of Yom Kippur is for us to change our behavior; to change a habit or an attitude. That is probably the hardest task for an individual to do. What can motivate a person to change? Having a near-death experience. The goal of all of these prohibitions is to remind us of our own mortality. We are alive, but not engaging in any creative activities. We are experiencing the fragility of our own existence and forcing ourselves to think about what is important and what keeps us alive. It is a custom to wear white, reminding us of purity and the traditional burial shroud. At the end of the day we return to normal life by blowing the shofar (the ram’s horn trumpet). It is an act of blowing life into ourselves, reviving and renewing ourselves.

To Do: Choose one thing that gives you physical pleasure (eating or talking on your cell phone, for example) or one thing that is a creative act, and do not allow yourself to do it for a day. Spend the time you would otherwise be using to focus inwardly on yourself.

The Hebrew word Kippur actually means “to wipe off.” So it would really be more accurate to refer to the holiday as the “Day of Cleansing.”

Yom Kippur falls on the 10th day of Tishrei, a week after the end of Rosh HaShanah (the New Year) and concludes the “Days of Awe” or “Ten Days of Repentance.”

Did you know?

Yom Kippur is actually supposed to be a day of happiness and joy. In fact the rabbis have written that Yom Kippur is one of the two happiest days of the year (along with the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day, which occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av). The idea is that after a day of reflection we have cleansed ourselves and start afresh, with joy and hope. Kapparot (literally atonements but here meaning ransom) is a folk custom still practiced in some communities just before Yom Kippur. A person takes a live rooster, waves it over his or her head and promises to slaughter it as a symbol of his or her sins.

To prepare for the fast in a symbolic way there is a custom to eat a hard boiled egg dipped in ash. The egg symbolizes life and perfection, the ashes symbolize reflection and mourning. Yom Kippur is a balance between the two.

Things to do to celebrate Yom Kippur
Choose one relationship you have with someone you care about, that may be in need of a little repair, and make an extra effort to try to heal that relationship. Hold a break-fast party at the end of the holiday and invite all your friends. Enjoy each others’ company and reflect on the day. Sit and meditate. Breathe deeply and try to create a personal connection with God. If that is hard, write your own prayer that summarizes how you feel about the past year and what you hope for the coming year. Jewish tradition puts an emphasis on giving charity around Yom Kippur. Look for a cause that you believe in and open a collecting box that you can add to during the year. Give the money away next Yom Kippur and start a new fund for a new cause.

For more information and insights about Yom Kippur go to MyJewishLearning.com, — www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/YomKippur.htm