Lessons from Yom Kippur

Yes, I know it’s Thanksgiving, but Yom Kippur has a hidden message for Thanksgiving. Not the kind of hidden like Bible Codes or playing an LP of the Torah backwards. It just sometimes can be easy to miss because of the whole timing thing – you know, with Yom Kippur being several weeks before Thanksgiving, and a distant memory at this point at best.

So the message is easy to miss. But we won’t. We’ll shine a light on it this year.

On Yom Kippur we apologize for our wrongdoings, our missteps, our errors, our transgressions. Maybe you were in synagogue for the whole, “For the sin which we have sinned before You….” It probably at least sounds familiar. (And it doesn’t need to be done in a synagogue – out-of-the-box is always an option!) We stand before God and acknowledge our downfalls; we ask God to forgive us.

But according to the rules of Yom Kippur, there is something extremely important that we must do before this step of asking forgiveness from God. We must ask forgiveness from people who we wronged – whether we did so intentionally or unintentionally. First we say sorry to people, then we say sorry to God. As great as God is and as much as God is a part of our daily lives, so are people. Interpersonal relationships take work. Yom Kippur is a time to work on them.

So is Thanksgiving.

Many people have the tradition of sitting around the Thanksgiving table and reciting what they’re thankful for. Maybe it’s running water, a roof, enough food, enough clothes, maybe a nice vacation or nice neighbors. It is a great tradition and there are many wonderful things about thanking God! (This, too, can be done out-of-the-box (away from the table or on your own.)) But like we do on Yom Kippur, consider using this date as an opportunity to approach people first, with sincerity and vulnerability. Consider reaching out to someone and saying I am grateful to you, before you tell God what you’re grateful for.
Yom Kippur is a day for acknowledging that sometimes we have done wrong by others. Thanksgiving is a day for acknowledging that sometimes others have done right by us.

Today I will tell my family that I am grateful to them, and tell them why. I will tell my friends. I will reach out to people who I haven’t reached out to for a while and tell them I’m grateful to them for something they might not even remember. I will tell my patrons who have taken a chance on me with a subscription that I am grateful to them for following my work.

This Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the people who have helped me out, believed in me, made me smile. Maybe you will, too.
A version of this article first appeared on the Out-of-the-Box Judaism blog.

About the Author
Esther Goldenberg is the founder of Out-of-the-Box Judaism. Her books The Out-of-the-Box Bat Mitzvah: A Guide to Creating a Meaningful Milestone and A Story Every Week: Torah Wisdom for Today's World is available on Amazon.com and at other online booksellers. Join the conversation at http://bit.ly/OutoftheBoxConversation
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