It was 20 years ago when I was first seized by the concept of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. I was working as a journalist and interviewed a delightful Jewish nonagenarian. Our chat stretched into a three-hour dialog on Jewish thought and philosophy. She shared how she loved Yom Kippur and how one could not be right with God if one was not also at peace in human relations. She shared how “atone” also meant to be “at one.” Simplistic, I know, but the idea touched a chord in me. Each year since, I have taken this day to examine my human relationships. What is right and what is wrong and what part have I played in making it so? For Jews, it is one of the highest of holy days, involving prayer, ritual and fasting. My observation is less formal, but Yom Kippur has inspired me to thank people for their love and support, as well as to offer words of apology.
This year I am thinking about another sort of atonement, however, one that happens internally. The band Cloud Cult, among my favorite modern-day philosophers, sings about this sort: “There’s a room full of people in your head, and every single one of them claims your name.” We live in a fragmented world, and it’s easy to become fragmented ourselves, with ends hanging loose, calling on forces and people to grab hold and pull us this way and that.
I love the way Rev. Jan calls us at the close of Sunday service to strive to be our highest Selves. In my theology, that highest Self is the unique manifestation of God that resides in each one of us. It is the integral core around which all the loose threads of ego can wrap themselves and find rest.
May you be at peace this Yom Kippur. May you be at one.
Some advice for those not Jewish: it is not appropriate to wish someone a “happy Yom Kippur.” Better? “I hope you have an easy fast.” Or, as Lorena suggests above: “May you be at peace this Yom Kippur.”