A Fallen Jew Reflects on Yom Kippur

My uncle, my dad, grandpa and grandma….dressed in itchy clothes

For me as a child the Jewish “Day of Atonement”, Yom Kippur was the lousiest holiday of the year. We were forced to fast the whole day, wear itchy clothes and sit in services for hours while our bellies churned.
But I’m learning we did it all wrong. Apparently to some Jews it is a celebration of forgiveness–God forgiving you for all your shortcomings, all your failures and seeing you as the perfect being you really are.
Back as a kid we were taught to think about all the bad things we had done and then feel really guilty for them, then promise to never do them again, then do them again anyway because we never really resolved any of our issues.
The Jews in my experience didn’t get a lot of breaks. Life is hard, you feel bad about it, you feel better for a little while and then it gets hard again.
But here it is, this little gem of a holiday, a crystal moment where we get to bear it all to God…all our ugliness and then… there it is!  Forgiveness.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could carry that spirit of that into everything we do? Forgive ourselves unconditionally for our short comings? Live life like it’s Yom Kippur every day (minus the itchy clothes, of course).
I’ve fallen from my religion, but I think tomorrow I’m going to observe this one, in my own way.
Its time for a clean slate.
“Yom Kippur is the happiest day that ever existed. It’s Christmas for Jews. But instead of gifts being dropped down chimney, we ourselves rise and are turned into the gifts we always wanted to be: our true essence, our true selves, pure and holy and as real as it gets with no more illusions.”
Elad Nehorai

Many thanks to Elad Nehorai whose blog inspired me:


  1. Becky this is awesome! Growing up Catholic, every Friday (or was it Saturday?) we had confession. We couldn’t go to God directly though, we had to confess our “sins” to a priest and then do penance (i.e.ten Hail Mary’s and one Our Father) and promise to never do the behavior again. I think if it had all been presented the way you described self-forgiveness, becoming our “…true selves, pure and holy…” I may not have “fallen.” Thanks for this blog Becky. It is beautiful.

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