By Daniel Kraus
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year, but what about the days after Yom Kippur? Many of us fasted, spent the day in Synagogue meditating in prayer and reflection. We were engaged in spiritual inventory of our lives and thinking about what we want for ourselves in the future. We leave the immersive nature of Yom Kippur perhaps invigorated or exhausted – but now what?
What should we feel on the days and week after Yom Kippur? On Yom Kippur, we naturally feel spiritually awakened, but what happens the following day? Can we sustain the heightened awareness of Yom Kippur throughout the year?
Yom Kippur is a time when every Jew comes close to G d. That experience, however, must not be self-contained; it must connect to the days and weeks that follow. We should not be the same person the day after Yom Kippur that we were the day before Yom Kippur. We should be moving ahead, raising our lives to a higher level. All our pious efforts and deeds are only effective when they take the form of actual behavior. The purpose of Yom Kippur is to push ourselves to be better, purer, and to think about the words we say. Today is the day we must move our thoughts into tangible plans of action. As we undertake our Yom Kippur commitments, we must take the time work out a plan for these commitments. Every idea, big or small needs a strategy to move it out of idea mode and into action mode.
The High Holidays provided us an island of time which was hopefully uplifting and meaningful. As creatures of habit, most of us will settle back into our routines, perhaps even a little relieved that it is over.
The questions we asked on the High Holy Days, “Who am I?, What is important to me?” should not be tucked away in and sealed in a box until next year. This is a conversation worth continuing.
We each hold the key to the future of the Jewish people. We must embrace active participation in Jewish life so that we can bequeath it to our children and them to theirs. Let us each pledge to embrace our Judaism and ensure that the light of Torah burns brightly for many years to come.
In that merit may we all be blessed with a year of good health, sweetness, meaning and peace. This year, may we be able see the truth of who we really are and what we are capable of, and make new rules that will build us, cultivate our greatness, and uplift the people we love.
Daniel Kraus is a Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York where he serves as the Director of Community Education. He can be followed at @rabbidkraus