At first, I thought, my non-Jewish friend who wished me a ‘Happy Yom Kippur,’ needed a better understanding of the most notable Jewish holiday. After all, it’s not a joyous event where you wish friends a ‘Happy’ anything. It’s a reflective day. It literally means, Day of Atonement, the day we ask for forgiveness and offer to forgive, despite the personal challenge. It’s about repairing relationships. It’s about acknowledging where and how we can improve ourselves. The prayer in the photo is one we say over and over again. It’s the day of judgement where the Book of Life is opened and you hope your name is signed in there for another year.
Today, I learned that maybe my friend wasn’t so far off! Apparently, an interpretation from ancient times says the word ‘Kippur’, or it’s plural, ‘Kippurim’ can mean ‘with’ Purim. Purim is a Jewish festival commemorating the defeat of Haman’s plot to massacre the Jews. There are costumes, merriment and we give gifts of food and treats to one another. Purim literally means ‘lots’ or ‘lottery’. When we win the lottery or win against a government official who wants to massacre a people, we feel immense joy, we celebrate. So, on Yom Kippur there is an element of celebration of the joys in our life.
Now, I have a whole new perspective about what I used to think was a somber, solemn day where we deny ourselves food, a basic need, to inspire us to work harder on ourselves. We are obligated to recognize our joys! The people in our lives who provide unending joy. Sometimes joy is short-lived: seeing a rainbow or accomplishing a task. But we need to acknowledge the joy that comes from nourishing and nurturing friendships with family and friends. We are challenged to consider how we share our joy with the world.
I feel a deep-seeded overwhelming joy for every day of life I’m given and the many people in my life who enrich me. It is my obligation to share the joy I feel and bring it into the world, so, as the Rabbi said, we can rise up like the angels and sing Halleluyah so the world will rejoice.