Yom Kippur is a weird one.
Many Jews sit in synagogue for most of the day, saying sorry for any misdeeds over the last year and making resolutions to be better people in future. And as if the synagogue marathon wasn’t enough, we afflict ourselves by refraining from any eating or drinking, showering or wearing leather shoes and fragrances.
And yet, the rabbis teach us, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – has the status of a yom tov, a festival day. And not just any old festival, but ‘the happiest day of the Jewish calendar’.
How does this make any sense and what lesson might it have for WJR?
On a simple level, avoiding everyday needs such as eating and drinking is a way of mimicking angels, who never need to eat or drink. Being like an angel is also the reason why many people have the custom to wear a white garment on Yom Kippur. Just as angels don’t worry about these things, so too Jewish people have a day where we are above menial daily chores and can spend time reflecting on the bigger picture.
On a deeper level, Jewish tradition teaches that the world was not created perfect. If it had been, life would be very dull indeed. Instead, all of us, Jewish or not, are able to make our mark and leave the world a better place than how we found it. Yom Kippur offers us the opportunity to think about what we’ve achieved as individuals – people we’ve made smile, old ladies we’ve helped across the road and family we’ve actually kept in touch with. But it also nudges us to think about where we’ve not been so great – comments we’ve made behind people’s backs or charity we’ve forgotten to give.
And yet, despite us admitting we’re not so perfect – we’re supposed to be happy. After all, it’s a yom tov, a festival day. Because the important thing is to go through the process, to take stock of where we’re up to in life and to make a couple of sensible resolutions for the coming year.
And let’s be honest, our volunteers and donors have stored up a lot of credit supporting WJR. However you’ve contributed, you are all responsible for the amazing work of our organisation. Every food parcel delivered, every house repaired, every training session delivered is down to you. And while reflecting on what we’ve not done so well this year, this is something all of us can be proud of.
Shana tova, and wishing all of our supporters well over the fast.