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the most important day of the year

09/23/2020 07:20:33 PM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

We’ve just concluded what a significant percentage of the Jewish population might say is our holiest day of the year. Coming at the conclusion of Ten Days of Penitence, and an even lengthier month prior, the goals for this period of introspection have remained constant for the millennia: reflect on our past actions; make amends to those whom we have wronged; identify ways to become an even better version of ourselves; plead with God to forgive the ways we have strayed from God’s path. You probably could not select a more powerful day in the Jewish calendar, but I wish to offer an alternative view.

To me the most important day of the Jewish year is not Yom Kippur; rather, it is the day after Yom Kippur. I know that for some you are wondering what you missed – are there special observances we did not know about? There are none. “So, Rabbi,” you will rightly inquire, “why is the day after Yom Kippur the most important day?”

Let’s reflect for a moment on some of the things that we do during Yom Kippur: we fast for 25 hours; we beat our chests an untold number of times admitting our collective sins; we rise and sit so many times that our trainers give us the rest of the week off; we proclaim our faults before God and ask God’s forgiveness. My question to you is: what happens the next day? Are you changed in any way?

If you can honestly answer “yes”, and can identify the steps that you have taken to become an even better version of yourself, by asking forgiveness from those you have wronged, by adding a new mitzvah to your current set, by increasing your generosity of time and/or money for those in need, and by being mindful of the daily challenge and effort necessary to become even better, then yes – you have passed the Yom Kippur test.

If you resume exactly the way you were without any noticeable change or effort to become an even better version of yourself, then you have not yet passed the test. We should come out of Yom Kippur feeling renewed, rejew-venated, and aware of steps to take. If not, then Yom Kippur and you did not see eye to eye. However, there is good news! The Rabbis of old were mindful of the great challenges this time of year presents for self-improvement, and gave us extra time. While everyone is accustomed to the symbolic gates of Heaven closing with the conclusion of Neilah, truth be told, they are still open a crack. We have until Hoshana Rabbah (literally “great save”, but nothing to do with hockey), which is the 21st day of Tishrei, coinciding with the 9th of October this year, to get our pleas to God through the gates. At the conclusion of Hoshana Rabbah, the gates close. We recite special pleas to God throughout the festival of Sukkot, with lulav and etrog in hand, called Hoshanot (the plural of Hoshana), asking God to forgive us and strengthen us. So, if you might be a member of the Procrastinators Club, or, might not have found your Yom Kippur experience sufficiently inspirational to help you find the path to a better self, we have Sukkot to help us.

My post next week will be on the eve of Hoshana Rabbah. If you have not yet found the inspiration and encouragement to right any wrongs and boldly move forward in this New Year of 5781, I hope and pray that you are able to do so before Hoshana Rabbah, and that God seal you for a New Year of health and joy.


Wed, February 24 2021 12 Adar 5781