I hope you and your family are well. I am thinking of you and sending my positive thoughts and prayers. We are missing everyone, and hope to bridge the distance through this electronic connection.
Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are built-in markers to help us pause and reflect. This year, Yom Kippur begins at sunset on September 15 and ends at sundown on September 16. During this time, we turn inward. We push ourselves to look back over the past year, ask for forgiveness and open ourselves up to the possibilities in the year to come. For many of us, each year there is a similarity to the approach; we are guided by our teachings. Still, we each are moved by different things. What helps you move toward goodness and peace? My “neshamah” (the Jewish notion of the soul) is sparked when I dig a little deeper to find the symbolism and meaning behind our customs, or I enhance reflection with beautiful music or other meaningful words. This intentional combination pushes my heart and soul in the right direction as I strive “to do better and be better.”
For many of us, this year will be different. Some individuals may be comfortable attending in-person synagogue-based services (with a mask please), while others prefer a home-based holiday. Whatever you choose is perfectly okay; we can find contemplation and spiritual renewal in either location. Do not allow the physical distance to become a barrier to your introspection. Reflect and connect with yourself, friends and loved ones, and G-d. I hope this Touch Points will remind you of the beautiful symbolism behind our traditions, and provide additional ways to augment the holiday with musical links and inspiration. With a little thought and intention, this time will be sacred and special.
CUSTOMS AND A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING DURING YOM KIPPUR:
- Teshuvah– This is one of the central aspects of the Holidays. Teshuvah literally means to return.
Honestly look back over the past year and assess your actions. Find the courage to accept your faults and transgressions, and strive to be better in the coming year. This can be a transformative journey. Rabbi Sara Sapadin says, “Teshuvah is not about concealing our imperfections, it is about facing them.” Interestingly, there is a Teshuva “formula.” In order to change or “turn back” to your best self, follow these steps: recognize the wrong or error, take responsibility for your action/behavior, feel and express regret, apologize and ask for forgiveness (this could be to yourself, other people, or G-d), and plan on how you will improve and change the behavior in the future. Author Estelle Frankel says, “Through Teshuva we always have the power and freedom to begin anew so that our past need not determine our future.”
One way I enhance my intention when reflecting is by listening to inspiring music. The prayer Avinu Malkeinu is recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This is an extremely powerful prayer. Click below to hear Barbra Streisand sing this undeniably gorgeous Avinu Malkeinu (4 minutes). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YONAP39jVE&app=desktop
“Nobody’s perfect. We make mistakes. We say wrong things. We do wrong things. We fall. We get up. We learn. We grow. We move on. We live.” -unknown
2. Forgiveness Rabbi Leah Berkowitz discusses the blessing of a genuine apology- both given and received. What makes a good apology? Rabbi Berkowitz states, “It is important to find the right words to tell people we have hurt, that we are sorry.” Be kind to yourself and to each other- offer amends and accept forgiveness. A sincere apology is a sign of strength. I hope we can all find insight to let go of anger and resentment, and find peace. Only then, we will stand in the light.
“Forgiveness is the best form of love. It takes a strong person to say sorry and an even stronger person to forgive.” -unknown
3. Remember Those we Have Lost– The Yizkor liturgy on Yom Kippur gives us time to reflect and remember our loved ones that are departed. Thinking of their admired qualities and reflecting on their lives brings a sense of closeness and connection. It also elevates our own perspective and meaning for the High Holidays. In my family, following services, we often share the warm memories of a loved one that has passed away. Even though my eyes fill with tears, my heart fills with so much love and gratitude to have had them in my life. May their memories continue to be a blessing.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -Winnie the Pooh
4. Shofar– The Shofar is a musical instrument made of a ram’s horn. Traditionally, the shofar is blown throughout the Hebrew month of Elul and during the High Holidays. Rabbi Ilana Schachter says that “Blowing the shofar can shake us from complacency, and can wake us up from a spiritual slumber. The sound of the shofar reminds us of important spiritual work we have yet to do.” I pray the sound of the shofar awakens us personally, and as a society. Let us acknowledge where we fell short, and how we will do more in the coming year to promote love, kindness and compassion. Amen!
5. Prayer- Our synagogues are doing everything possible to stay close and reach us during this atypical time. Each synagogue has its own plan for health and safety. What is your plan for Yom Kippur? If it’s your practice, you might choose a synagogue that offers services virtually. A variety of Milwaukee synagogues offer High Holiday Zoom links.
- Find information regarding Yom Kippur services in Wisconsin: https://www.milwaukeejewish.org/services/
- Find other online Yom Kippur services: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/where-to-stream-yom-kippur-services/
G-d hears our voices everywhere. If you aren’t able or comfortable praying in person or virtually, find your own way to speak to G-d. Share your mind and heart. Personally, there have been a few years I have been unable to attend services. Instead, I took out our prayer book and read the entire service at home by myself; I focused on pieces that had the most meaning to me. The stillness and the silence in our home added to my kavanah, or intention. This challenging year may be an wonderful opportunity to reach a new direction of the heart.
- Consider expanding your prayers this year. Pray for the doctors, nurses, and essential workers that provide care and services to help us all. We cannot forget or underestimate how difficult their jobs are. Pray to keep them safe, bring them comfort and send them additional strength to do their good work.
- Let us all send heartfelt “Mi Shebeirach” prayers (healing prayers) for those that are sick with Covid or to those that have lost people from this pandemic. Covid-19 is felt all over the world, and many people need our prayers.
- Click here for Debbie Friedman’s “Mi Shebeirach– A Prayer for Healing”- Debbie Friedman – Mi Shebeirach (2001) – Bing video
“…As You maintain harmony in the heavens, give peace to us, the whole Jewish People, and to all who dwell on earth. Amen.”
– Mahzor Lev Shalem
6. Be Safe- Please Get a COVID-19 Vaccine Today!- The FDA granted full approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine. I strongly urge you to get a Covid-19 vaccine! The Covid virus has mutated, becoming stronger with the very contagious Delta Variant. Are you and everyone you love vaccinated? If not, please get vaccinated today! Do it for yourself, your family, and your community. Information below:
- Click here to find a vaccine near you: https://www.vaccines.gov/ Many locations offer same day and walk-in appointments.
- In-home vaccinations are available! Simply call (414) 286-6800 to schedule. Do you have difficulty leaving your home, live in Milwaukee County, and have trouble accessing the support needed to get the COVID-19 Vaccine? No problem! Appointments are usually scheduled on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays between 9am-2pm. Please share this important number with those that need it.
- Do you have questions or feel hesitant? There are many ways to find the answers you need. Call and speak to an expert or click on the websites below. Have your questions answered and then make an appointment today.
Wishing everyone a meaningful Yom Kippur. May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year.
As always, if you have a question, I am here for you, and happy to help. You can find me here: DRubin-Winkelman@ovation.org
Thinking of you and sending all my positive energy and love,