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Day Ten: At-One-Ment


Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement. The Hebrew word כפרה, means "atonement." But it isn't just "atonement" - it is "at-one-ment." Our sages picked up on this long ago, noticing that the Torah speaks about Yom Kippur as a day "once in the year". This could simply mean it is a unique day. But in a deeper sense, at the core of Yom Kippur lies the idea of being at one, with ourselves, with our community and with God.

Indeed, Yom Kippur is a day to atone for our missings of the mark. But Yom Kippur is also about finding that which brings us wholeness and oneness. What gives us a sense of connectedness to everything and everyone else in the world? How can we see ourselves as part of a larger whole instead of separate and distinct from one another?



We've made it! Today is the tenth day of the Ten Days of Repentance. How will you make this day special and different?

There is a tension within Judaism about singularity and distinction. When we sing the Sh'ma, we proudly proclaim that God is One. Yet, when we conclude the Aleinu, we sing, "bayom hahu yiheh ADONAI Echad" "on that day, God will be One." Which is it? And if God isn't yet One, what chance do we have to discover our own "at-one-ment?"

Perhaps it all comes down to perception. Some are able to see and appreciate God's oneness - therefore we sing in the Sh'ma, "God is One!" Others are still struggling with the very idea of God and so we sing in the Aleinu, "on that day, God will be One."

And so it is with us. Some of us are deeply tuned into our connectedness within the world - our Oneness with the Divine in everything. Others focus on their uniqueness and separateness from others. On this day of Yom Kippur, we celebrate and engage in the hard work of navigating between these two realities, praying that we can move ever closer to "God is One" and our own "at-one-ment."


What Do I Do?

A big part of moving from separateness to wholeness; from distinctiveness to oneness on Yom Kippur is shedding the physical and artificial and focusing on the spiritual and enduring. There are five specific practices we abstain from on Yom Kippur: Eating and drinking, wearing leather, bathing and shaving, anointing ourselves with oils or lotions, and having sexual relations. By ignoring our physical desires, we can focus instead on our spiritual needs. Throughout the day, we concentrate on prayer, repentance, and self-improvement before returning to our usual daily routine after the holiday.

Some Jews wear white on Yom Kippur. Because white is a symbol of purity and Yom Kippur is a day when we undertake a spiritual cleansing, it is an appropriate color for the occasion. White is also a powerful symbol of wholeness and oneness as white light contains all wavelengths of visible light. White brings every color into one.

Perhaps some of these rituals and practices are meaningful to you. Perhaps they will help you feel more connected to yourself, your community and your God.

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