Judaism: Yom Kipper – Day for Making Peace

The wisdom of the ages, across faith traditions has ritualized practices that bring individual and community healing. The holiest day of the year for Jews, Yom Kippur is one such ritual. It is the Day of Atonement. My good friend, Sophia defined this word as “at-one-ment.”

The Day of Atonement in Reform Judaism begins not with a distant God that needs to be appeased for our sin and unworthiness. Rather it begins with the Scripture that proclaims that the Holy One is not far from us or unattainable, “No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it” (Deuteronomy 30:11–14).

It is difficult for any of us when we are self absorbed in our internal mental suffering and anguish to recognize that the path of healing draws us out of ourselves and into community.

According to Rabbi Erica Asch, “Yom Kippur (Atonement) is indeed not in the heavens. But it is also not solely within us as individuals because we experience it in the midst of a community. … Yom Kippur helps us understand that our sins are not ours alone to bear—and that our successes are for the entire community to share and celebrate.”

“Our experience of Yom Kippur is deeply personal, but at the same time, the holiday—like Judaism itself—is at its heart communal. Our Torah portion reminds us that we have the power to change, but only if we set to the task together—all of us.”  

I note that this process of peace-making follows a similar pattern to the twelve-step program. “Yom Kippur is the moment in Jewish time when we dedicate our mind, body, and soul to reconciliation with our fellow human beings, ourselves, and God. …As both seekers and givers of pardon, we turn first to those whom we have wronged, acknowledging our sins and the pain we have caused them. We are also commanded to forgive, to be willing to let go of any resentment we feel towards those who have committed offenses against us. Only then can we turn to God and ask for forgiveness. As we read in the Yom Kippur liturgy, “And for all these, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, and grant us atonement.””

Origins and Practice of Yom Kippur: