After Yom Kippur

The best way I can describe our communal experience during Yom Kippur, is by resorting to the sublime poetry of the 19th century English poet William Blake, who reminds us that it is indeed possible to behold “Infinity in the palm of your hand, and Eternity in an hour.”

For one sublime day, we individually and collectively suspended our worldly pursuits and intrigues. We let go of pettiness of mind and mundane concerns. We stood before G-d in utmost unity and joy, “as one person with a unified heart,” to quote Rashi.

On Wednesday night, when it was all over and we heard the redeeming utterance of the Shofar, we completed together a spiritual marathon. True, some of us suffered back pain, and some of us dealt with headaches and stomach aches, and some of us even lost their voices :), but we completed this spiritual marathon not just mechanically and technically by way of nutritional abstinence, but also – by way of soul-renewal and soulful elation.

And now that Yom Kippur is over, we all have an important decision to make. We basically have two options. Option one would roughly be to say: “Yom Kippur was a great and exhilarating marathon, and next year I’ll run this marathon again.” This is a good start, but there’s a problem with this approach. It implies that perhaps I won’t be very spiritually active for an entire year now. That I would only sporadically spiritually exercise and work out until this time next year. What a neglectful and destructive thing to do to one’s soul that would be – to relegate it and to denigrate it to utter passivity and degeneration for an entire year! Just imagine the manifold health risks and potential lack of health involved, G-d forbid, should we neglect exercising our bodies for an entire year!
The same applies to the soul. A soul which solely exercises its sublimity and actualizes its divinity once a year, or only once every few months, is a neglected and uncared for soul. And like all entities, physical or abstract, neglect of soul inevitably leads to its decay, deflation, and the shrinking of one’s spirit.

The synagogue is the mothership of Jewish souls. It is the majestic and awesome super-carrier of the Jewish spirit. It is where we join together, in order to put on hold our frantic race for worldly pursuits, and allow ourselves to remember that it is perfectly OK and legitimate to just be. That we don’t have anything to prove to anyone. That we are inherently and intrinsically of infinite worth and value. That we are not our bank accounts, or our looks, or our professional and academic achievements or lack thereof, or those of our children. That each and every one of us is a soul, a unique and perpetual manifestation of the Infinite. So do yourself a favor – come home to syngogue, so that you can put some spiritual gasoline, and do some spiritual maintenance on the vehicle of your soul. So that you can re-appreciate the people and values that ultimately matter. So that you can recalibrate your inner core, and emerge revitalized and enhanced in perspective and inner fortitude. So that once a week you can emancipate yourself from the temporary and fleeting worldliness of the world, put on hold the screens and the phone, and sing sublime celestial ancient poems in Hebrew with fellow Jews, and also ponder your existence and your immeasurable blessings during the Amidah. Come home to synagogue every week, because you need it, and because your soul thirsts for it, like an abandoned flower in a desert of materialism, falsehoods, and insecurities. Join us every week, so that you can further empower yourself to be inspired and uplifted, and so that you could enable yourself to tap into your fullest potential, and do even better in this world – as a spouse or a parent, as a professional and as a friend, as a human being created in the image of G-d.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Sessler

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