Yom Kippur and Shabbat: Sharing The Day For 5772
After 10 days of repentance, asking forgiveness and considering what the next year will hold, Yom Kippur arrives at the end of this week. Interestingly, this year it coincides with Shabbat. In some ways these two holidays are similar and in some ways they are very very different. In the Torah we are commanded to observe both of these days and each has an accompanying set of rules and rituals. Shabbat and Yom Kippur each have a prescribed day and time period set aside for them. I believe each has played a vital role in sustaining the children of Israel for over 4,000 years.
God in His infinite wisdom commanded the Jewish people to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. From sundown Friday evening until three stars appear in the sky Saturday night it is Shabbat. A time to turn off the outside world and tune into family, friends, and God. Shabbat is often associated with family time and delicious food. A time to take a break from the busy chaos of the week. Literally, there is a built in mini-vacation every seven days for the Jewish people. When God created humans, He knew that many of us would be Type A personalities. It’s as if we need the permission of Shabbat to settle down and spend time with loved ones without the itch to check our email or make a “quick” call. Shabbat is synonymous with relaxation and fulfillment.
Yom Kippur is something else entirely, yet I believe it is just as important. Yom Kippur has such a seriousness and severity to it that it only comes around once a year versus once a week. Instead of filling our tummies with delicious home cooking, we forgo all food in order to focus more on our prayers and our requests for a new year laden with blessings. Instead of spending the day socializing as on Shabbat, this Saturday most Jewish people will engage in deep reflection and prayer.
I’m fascinated by the ability of the Jewish people to have kept each of these days so close to their original intention. Thousands of years have gone by since our forefathers and mothers first stood at Mount Sinai and learned about these special days. In our infinite wisdom, year after year, no matter where the Jews lived or what else was going on in the world, Shabbat and Yom Kippur were revered. It is because of all the Jewish people who came before me and kept these commandments alive that I can stand in synagogue this Saturday and join my people in asking for a new year filled with good health and happiness. Prayers at the Kotel
I feel a deep sense of gratitude to the Jews who lived twenty generations, eight generations, or even two generations ago. It is because of their belief in an eternal covenant with God that we Jews today can enter synagogues all over the world and recite our prayers. All those who came before us knew what we know now, Israel is forever because of our commitment, as the Children of Israel, to the Land of Israel, and to the idea of Israel as a unifying entity for all of us scattered across the globe. What makes Israel unique is our ability to embrace our differences of opinion, our differences of faith, and our differences of observance and still know that Israel will remain forever because of the love, passion, and hope that we all share.
I wish you all G’mar Hatima Tova – that you may all be sealed in the Book of Life. May all of Israel be inscribed for a year of health, joy, and peace!