A Yom Kippur Meditation

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Kabbalah teaches that the prayers of the downtrodden open a window in the heavens to allow our prayers to ascend because of the depth of prayer of the broken-hearted. On Yom Kippur, wearing white can symbolize the garment in which we will be buried, reminding ourselves of the fragility and evanescence of our lives. This reminder at once exposes our broken hearts and opens them, asking that the heavens also break open…

We live in a time of great broken-heartedness—yet we cover these wounds with an unending quest for pleasure and wealth, our hearts glazed with distraction or indifference, calloused with fear and anger. Surely the white we wear as we eschew pleasure, screens, and work, call upon us to take heed of what we find within.

Many of you have told me that you don’t find prayer a meaningful expression, but that you will spend many hours in synagogue tonight and tomorrow. The verb “to pray” in Hebrew, l’hitpalel, is reflexive. Hebrew prayer is an activity in which we look at ourselves in the mirror of divine potential and ask how we might live up to our individual and collective capabilities.

Whether we are pray-ers, believers, or simply trying to act “as if” as we continue a tradition passed down or across or up from those whom we love: I hope that this opportunity for cheshbon hanefesh, to examine the balance sheet of our souls, is one in which each of us can take notice of and express what is deep within, and hear the broken-hearted pleas of those around us. As the windows of heaven are open to us, may we can harness the eternal and infinite wellspring to strengthen us as we commit to better, more responsible, use of our fleeting days to make life in this world better for all of us.

 

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