Yesterday was Yom Kippur, considered the holiest day of the year for Jews. I have never been particularly religious, but fasting on Yom Kippur is something I’ve done since I was a kid. Not because my parents told me to or because it was expected of me, but because the significance of the day is something I’ve always inherently understood.
Christians have confession periodically throughout the year, but in Judaism it’s an annual event. The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur are a period of self-reflection and repentance. You’re meant to think back on the year that has passed, acknowledge the ways in which you wronged others, and seek forgiveness for the pain you caused. Yom Kippur is called the Day of Atonement. For a full 24 hours you don’t eat or drink, but just wait to be given a sign that you’ve been absolved by God. A common phrase for Jewish people to say to one another during this time is, “May you be inscribed in the book of life.” The notion is that by the end of Yom Kippur, God will have decided who gets to live another year — a harsher analogy to Santa’s Naughty or Nice List.
Even as a child I was struck by the idea that I might not live long enough to fulfill my true destiny, that I needed to be my best self in order to earn my right to life, that ultimately I was being judged. I’ve taken those 10 days very seriously every year, admitting to myself how I’ve let people down and then reaching out to them to make amends. But this year in my meditation I came to the striking realization that the only one person to apologize to was myself.
It’s been an incredible year filled with new adventures in the professional and personal aspects of my life, but the truth is that I haven’t been very nice to myself. Somewhere along the way my motivations changed from pursuing happiness to fulfilling other people’s expectations. And as a result I’ve over-committed, made lots of excuses and lost a piece of myself.
So this year on Yom Kippur I made a vow to get my best friend back: me. I’m going to make a lot more space in my life, only do what feels 100% right, and slow down this wild roller-coaster I’ve been on. I’m nowhere close to being ready to leave this planet, and I better start showing it — not by living by other people’s rules, but by writing my own. Ultimately we’re all here to make our own contributions. I think I’m finally ready to make mine.
May each of you, no matter what your faith, be inscribed in the book of life. In your own ink.
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Thanks for the well-wishes, and right back at ya! Let me know if you need help keeping yourself honest, I know I do. :)
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arnold Gold says
I always thought that mayou benscribed in book of life was whata jew says when a good man/woman passes. Thanks for telling me what it actually meant.
I know my name is in the book of life and am forever thankful to my savior and redeemer. I don’t live in fear that my name is not there or will be removed. God is so merciful and gracious. When I reflect on Yom Kippur today I praise my Lord and Messiah who made a way of salvation.
Terrie Miley says
What a beautiful explanaition and awareness. I am not Jewish but think it beautiful and hold it with much respect.
I wanted to hold a wish and a prayer for my friemds on their holy days and now understand the meaning of the words.
It’s funny but on my last birthday I went to stay in the redwoods and talked withGod. It is a strange notion but I felt as if. Were being granted another year of life. I was filled with reverance and gratitude, knowing that it is not guaranteed and asking with all my heart how best to serve.
Now I understand the significance and the practice. It is something I would like to do as well. I think I have some letters to write…