The Ultimate Cleanse: Mind, Body, and Soul (Explaining Yom Kippur)
We fast to cleanse our bodies, pray deeply and introspectively into our souls, and actively repair our relationships. The trifecta experience of mind, body, and soul ties together for an ultimate experience on the Day of Atonement, our holiest day of the year, celebrating the Jewish people’s connection to G-d. The Jewish people take Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, incredibly seriously.
We do not eat nor drink anything for an entire twenty-five hours, planning a proper hydration and a pre-fast meal, exercising control over bodily desires, and strengthening our minds. Celebratory meals usher in the fast, a celebratory morning meal, a pre fast meal, and a post-fast meal are all a part of the day. It is also custom to give and receive honey cakes, a symbol of sweetness and good wishes. There are exceptions to the fast, especially if one is very ill, they must eat. A ill person eating on Yom Kippur is fulfilling the commandment as if they had fasted, for G-d wants us to be healthy beings.
Speaking of the mind, Judaism focuses on repairing the world around us. Tikkun Olam, our ever-famous slogan held dearly close to our hearts, has a special commandment on Yom Kippur. It is not enough that we ask G-d for forgiveness, but we must ask each other. We must repair bridges of broken trust and hurt feelings in this world – only then can we expect to influence positive change on earth. However, there are people who cannot or will not forgive. Should one ask for sincere forgiveness three times, putting their heart and mind out to vulnerability that it entails only to experience rejection, then the asker should turn inward and forgive themselves. Repairing oneself from hurt and harm is held just as importantly as helping to repair the relationships around you.
The Jewish calendar is lunar, because G-d made night before day. Sunset begins each new day and therefore each holiday begins at sunset. Women light candles and say a prayer, bringing light into the world. We believe the gates of heaven are open on this day, and that we have a special connection to G-d and the depths of who we really are. Prayer, an essential component with special services for Yom Kippur, begins. The evening service is called Kol Nidre, meaning “all vows”. Four more prayer services will follow, including the third, Musaf, which details the Yom Kippur service completed in the Temple that once stood in Jerusalem, Israel. The conclusion of the service mirrors Passover, our celebration from exodus, with a declaration of “Next Year in Jerusalem.” The festive post-fast meal commences amongst family, friends, and community, as it has for thousands of years.
- Written by Melissa Ariella Sherman