Teachings: Yom Kippur

Understanding Shabbat as a Spiritual Practice

Ask most Jews what the holiest day of the year is and assuredly the answer you will most likely hear is “Yom Kippur.” While Yom Kippur is certainly a very holy day, did you know that within the Jewish tradition there is also a deeply-held conviction that each and every Shabbat is the holiest day of the year? This is why Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is also referred to as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” Every Shabbat, Jews practice traditions that are enriched with spiritual meaning. In this article, let us explore these deeper meanings.

DIY Yom Kippur at Home

This page was created after receiving letters from a) a woman in rural Romania b) a homebound man and his wife and c) friends who felt very uncomfortable in the local synagogue and d) friends whose children were unwilling to go back to synagogue due to boredom.

The powerful themes of Yom Kippur can still serve your soul, where you are living is also holy. On Yom Kippur we show up in life hopefully having worked intensively on personal transformation and feeling that even if "God" would check us over, our efforts will be blessed.
Unknown Object

Teshuvah: Must We Always Forgive?

Jews take collective responsibility for the moral targets that get missed in life. At least ten days before Rosh HaShannah prayers called Selihot are added where, having empathy for ourselves as only human, we admit personal and collective ownership of the full range of problematic human behaviors:

We are guilty (spiritually desolate and distant from our higher selves)

We have betrayed (our loved ones, the community, the planet)

Understanding Yizkor and Yartzeit

We begin with a short mitzvah story about yizkor and yarzeit, the Jewish memorial spiritual practices for a loved one that take place annually on the anniversary of the person's death, as well as on specific holidays. This article will then continue with how to enter into yartzeit and yizkor as spiritual practices for both home and synagogue.

Where's the Joy?

Dear Reb Shohama, It’s been such a difficult month, remembering 9/11, worrying about impending war, and sitting through Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, focusing on everyone’s sins. I want a religion that teaches me how to be happy. Can I find that in Judaism? Sincerely, Andy


Dear Andy, It has been a difficult month with all that has been happening in the world. And you are right, Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur are the most serious of our holidays.

Teshuvah: Can We Invite God in Again? Hashpa’ah After the Shoah (Holocaust)

The First Steps in Teshuva: A Process of Deep Return/Rebalancing/Centering
by Carola de Vries Robles --from "Can We Invite God in Again?  Hashpa’ah After the Holocaust",  Seeking & Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Direction (2009: Reclaiming Judaism Press)

I developed a centering exercise which has basic steps that can be reformulated or modulated for different circumstances. Certain “steps” need more practice, yet all the steps together keep the Shekhinah alive. Here are the steps:

Eleh Ezkerah Adapted to Genocide Among the Nations

by Batya Podos

This was created in part by the following sources and inspirations: Martin Prechtel’s CD:  Grief and Praise and David Saphier’s 5767 Martyrology. This can be read/presented/studied in a variety of ways for the  Eleh Ezkerah portion of High Holiday services. 

What Is Mussar?

Rabbi Mendel of Satanov created a new approach to the practice called Heshbon HaNefesh, “Accounting of the Soul.” He encouraged keeping a journal on how you are doing in cultivating the following 18 attributes within yourself, and I would add, your students, children and grandchildren. After the list, are several ways to work with these concepts in your life. These are the core concepts of Mussar, one of many inspiring approaches to Jewish living.

1. Equanimity - מְנוּחַת הַנֶפֶשׁ.  Attaining skillful ability to live in balance.

2. Tolerance - סַבְלָנוּת. Growing pains lead to knowing gains, listen with an open mind.

3. Orderliness - סֵדֶר. Allocating time for living fully with integrity, including showing up on time.

4. Decisiveness - חָרִיצוּת. Acting promptly when your reasoning is sure and kindness is intelligently incorporated in necessary action.

Book Review, Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe

This review by Rabbi Goldie Milgram was first published in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.