Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

Yom Kippur thoughts: The shard

The Shard (with a nod to Reb Brandon Sanderson)

There is something within us that is older than the creation of the cosmos. It is ancient and elusive, but it is there. It is more durable than the sun and the stars, yet no microscope will ever find it. In fact, it is indestructible. No force on Earth or beyond it can destroy, conquer, or subdue it. It doesn’t age, grow old or wither. It doesn’t fade or disintegrate.

It is indestructible yet alive. It is so alive, that it makes all other life seem paltry by comparison. It is a source of such enduring life, that even the death of its host body won’t extinguish it.

It is indestructible, alive, and powerful. It is so powerful that thunderstorms, hurricanes and even supernovas can’t capture its power.

It is indestructible, alive, powerful, yet subtle. It is so subtle, that most people don’t even realize they carry it. And even when they do know of its existence, it is easily forgotten, ignored.

This indestructible, alive, powerful, subtle thing I will call a Shard. It is a divine Shard. It is an infinitesimal portion of Infinity itself. It contains within it something of the nature, the properties, some compression or condensation or some indescribable aspect of the very force that created and maintains our entire universe.

Yet each part of infinity that is within each of us is somehow unique. At the deepest level, it IS us. This powerful, radiant (again Reb S.), living, elusive, unbreakable, immortal thing is us.

But our breathing, organic, material selves don’t always know, or understand or remember who or what our true selves entail.

Enter Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is among the more unusual and perhaps most powerful of Jewish events.

We try to limit all worldly distractions. We don’t eat or drink. We don’t work. We spend almost the entirety of the day together in prayer and reflection. One of the purposes of this exercise (besides being Biblically mandated) is to reconnect with that forgotten Shard. The noise of life drowns out the voice of our Shard. The constant preoccupation with life, with work, with the demands, pressures, anxieties, expectations, stresses, disappointments, and everything else that life throws our way often makes it impossible to hear ourselves, to listen to our Shard. Yom Kippur is the start of the solution.

Again, the Shard is an inseparable part of us. It is us. And it is right there waiting for us to reconnect. To listen to it. To talk to it. To think about it. To ponder it. Perhaps even to visualize it. To draw strength and energy from it. To draw insight and guidance and perspective and direction from it. To draw life and inspiration from it. To draw power and conviction and courage from it.

Jewish tradition provides some of the scaffolding for such an exercise, for such a journey. It provides an ancient, proven, and successful tradition. It provides the map for us to explore that inner world in a healthy, moral, mature, responsible, and honest way.

Showing up is the first step. Buying in is the next. Going through the motions is extremely helpful. Yet we still need to do the highly individualized and personal work within the prescribed communal framework. And while the general experience may be common to us all, it is an extremely unique and private journey.

May we all find our Shard, hear it, connect with it, listen to it, tap into it, and let us really feel the infinity that is within us.

Gmar Chatima Tova – May we all be inscribed for a good year,


About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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