My Issue with Yom Kippur

Image: Alexas_Fotos,
Image: Alexas_Fotos,

Feelings, thoughts, words and intentions matter. But with no action, they are worth nothing. That’s why I think Yom Kippur should not be “Sorry Fest”, but a true moment of “Kippur”, where we decide with ourselves how we will try be better. That’s what I am going to try and do this year.

Yom Kippur (‘Day of Atonement’) is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, and for a reason. But I admit, I have an issue with it.

In principal, it’s a beautiful concept and tradition. You ask for forgiveness on two levels (from G-d, and from other people), admit your shortcomings and mistakes, and start fresh for a whole year – ideally, by actually trying to be better and improve. But, this opens the door for what I call “Sorry Fest” – people asking each other for forgiveness as a polite greeting for the holiday, and sometimes it appears like it is done only in order to appear good and feel good about themselves. I am willing to guess, for most people, this behavior is usually not followed by a true intent to try and be better.

In my opinion, that was not the original intention of the holiday. Mind you, it’s called “Kippur” (atonement), not “Slicha” (asking for forgiveness).

So, I decided I am not going to politely ask people for forgiveness “if I ever hurt them in any way” (which sometimes may sound like “I don’t think I did, but note how kind I am to be sorry and ask for forgiveness anyhow“). What I am going to do is to think with myself and ask myself a few questions:

  • Was I an honest and decent person this year?
  • Did I really try to express empathy in order to understand those in front of me – family, friends, colleagues, clients, or even complete strangers?
  • While it’s OK to complain (I claim it’s a basis human right) – have I kept proportion and took stock of my blessings, remembering to be ever grateful?
  • Did I care enough this year about people around me – before and beyond they cared for me?
  • Did I donate enough this year and helped those who face true hardships in life, and deserve my help?
  • Did I give just a bit more than I took?
  • Was I truly humble, and did not fall into the trap of “feeling humble”?
  • If I’m gone tomorrow – as I see my life pass before me, will I feel more completeness and acceptance of my journey, rather than regret? Will I be remembered the way I wish to be?

Of course, no one is perfect, nor free from shortcomings. Especially not me. But, I think that the decisions we make and commit to, based on the answers we give ourselves for the above questions – those are the real “Kippur.” The true atonement. Those answers and followed commitments to improve open the door for the actions that are needed in order to make the feelings, thoughts, words and intentions actually worth something.

So, whoever I hurt this year, knowingly or not – I truly am sorry. But instead of telling you that – I am going to try my best in doing the above.

גמר חתימה טובה | May your atonement be meaningful

About the Author
Assaf is passionate about promoting business in and with Israel, helping and mentoring entrepreneurs, advising young professionals with career planning and self-fulfillment, and more. Assaf acts as a brand ambassador of Israel as 'Start-Up Nation', speaking to thousands of businessmen, investors, entrepreneurs, young professionals, students and others, both in Israel and around the world. Assaf also works as a business development and marketing consultant to Israeli start-ups and others.
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