By Rabbi David Lister, Edgware United Synagogue
What would you need for the perfect day? Different people like different things. Some might ask for a great shopping day with friends, a new outfit, a makeover, a latté and a movie night in to finish. Or maybe a day on a white sandy beach, with perfect weather, a good novel, gourmet food and a swish hotel to go back to (in a top-spec car). Or watching your favourite team spectacularly defeating the opposition.
Yom Kippur offers us a different look on life. Relaxing and having fun is fine. It helps us to recharge for life itself. Yet when these things or experiences become the ultimate, the high points in our lives, while the rest is just a build-up or a look back, then we are missing the point.
Yom Kippur reminds us that we are built for higher things. There is something within us which thrills at the thought of a clear conscience, or an epic mission accomplished against the odds, or actually making a difference. That ‘something within us’ might be distracted and beguiled by all the fun we can have, but in quiet times or in moments of reflection, it haunts us with a hunger for goodness, for meaning.
So on Yom Kippur we throw it all away. The tinkling ice cubes in the club cocktail, the roar of the crowd on the terraces, the snug fit of a Gucci shoe around a cashmere sock, the invigorating contrast of boiling sun and cool ocean waves, the low roar and throb of a powerful car engine.
And all of a sudden, on this day, we find our view of G-d, and His love for us, unimpeded. We look Him in the eye and He looks back. We both give a smile of recognition and reconnection. At this moment, the human becomes fully real once again.
But what of the past? What of squandered years and missed opportunities, when we may have passed over everyone in our way in our lust for status and wealth, trampled down and blundered through the exquisite delicate structures of the Jewish year, banished G-d from our kitchens and doorways, and from our relationships and our own hearts?
As we stand before G-d, in that moment of clarity and love, He accomplishes a miracle for us: “For on this day, He will atone for you, to purify you from all your sins. Face to face with G-d, He will purify you” (Vayikra 16:30).
G-d Himself purifies us of sin, and vouches for us that we are spotless and renewed. A new year unfolds before us, radiant with potential, looking to us to reframe our enjoyment of life; not to live in pain and denial, but to keep this world in perspective. And with that thought, you have the perfect end to the perfect day.