It’s a funny thing, Yom Kippur. Like no other religious icon it has the power to move people across the entire spectrum. Whether you can’t wait to get to the synagogue to beg a deity for forgiveness in an orgy of self-flagellation, or it’s a stark reminder of your heritage which you resent but can’t seem to run away from, emotions are strong, and a contemplative mood fills the air.
Maybe you were here in 1973, flying over the Sinai. Maybe you can’t wait to ride a bike down the Ayalon highway the wrong way, to “see what it’s like”. Maybe you are too young for all that history and too lazy for that exercise and want to sit in the middle of the road drinking wine and playing cards. Or maybe you’re looking forward to some peace and quiet.
This is the day that touches us all, this is the last thread that keeps us connected to our heritage. The beggar coming into the hummusiya, wishing chatima tova “a good sealing (of fate)”. Giving him a few shekels didn’t seem like such a hassle. The woman sitting outside smiling at her photos of her baby scan. Am yisrael chai “the people of Israel live”.
Some question the way in which Yom Kippur is an imposed day on which emphasis is placed on not just humility, but putting ourselves down and vowing to better ourselves as if we go through life day-by-day not doing our best anyway. It seems to me that to bottle up a little bit of the Yom Kippur spirit and bring it into every day, the weight of this day would be somewhat lighter. Don’t we already have enough guilt on our shoulders? Personally I’ve had enough of over-humility, I like it that I can hold my head high here, and people are free to take me or leave me.
Even if we express it in radically different ways, Yom Kippur is that it marks us as one people. So, just in case, gmar chatima tova.
(Header image: Cyclists on the deserted Ayalon highway on Yom Kippur.)