For years I attended Yom Kippur services without having any idea why I went. Yet I sensed that Yom Kippur was more than just a long day at synagogue waiting for dinner.
Anyone who works hard knows the feeling as vacation approaches. The workload becomes unbearable as you begin to fantasize about sitting on the beach. Yom Kippur is like the soul's yearly trip to a heavenly spa resort. The soul knows that at the end of the day, it will come out refreshed and pampered like a new baby.
The Hebrew word for that spiritual spa treatment is kapara. Just by showing up to synagogue and going through the service we are saying: "God, I am a wreck. I don't know how I got this way. And now I'm stuck. Please help me."
Everyone knows about the New Year's resolutions that are not kept. The reason New Years' resolutions fail is because in order to change, we first need kapara. Kapara means that God is personally picking us out of the mud in order that we can succeed in changing to become better people.
In order for this to work, you'll need to do three things: 1) be bothered that you are stuck, 2) list the problems, and 3) find a detail in your life that you can change for the better.
It is impossible to change all at once.
Being bothered you are stuck means regretting having behaved in a certain pattern. Although it is impossible to change all at once, if we make even a tiny change to show we want to be different in even one area of life, then kapara can work. Kapara gives you the power to begin becoming a new person. For example, if a person struggles with greed, he should not say, "I'll stop being greedy." That is impossible to do in an instant. Rather he should say: "I regret that my greed is preventing me from giving to others. I am committing to change by giving an $18 donation once a month to a Jewish cause."
This is the process of teshuva (retreating from one's negative actions) needed on Yom Kippur. But beware of the voice telling you: "This is an insignificant change!" When a person does even a small change, he gets the gift of kapara, and with it heavenly assistance to -- over time -- change many details in life, until he eventually truly becomes a new person.
To make things easier, I've compiled a list of problems where I've found myself and others often get stuck. Go through this list before Yom Kippur, and underline what most applies to you. As your read the list, if any other needs come to mind, jot them down. Then, on Yom Kippur, read the list as your own personal prayer. I guarantee you'll be so involved in the power of the day, that you'll hardly notice your growling stomach.
The Letter Begins
Dear Creator of All,
You are able to do anything. You know my dreams, my hurts and my frustrations. You have given me everything I have ever had, even when I didn't deserve it. You are the only source of success, and only You can give me what I want. If You invented shooting stars and coral reefs, and a fiery sun 93 million miles away so I could take pleasure at its rays on my cheek in the morning, then I know You want good for me.
You invented love and You invented me. Just like Your making me was an act of love, please help me be the person You intended me to be. I know You did not create me to be mediocre, so I am asking for Your help in the following areas:
My Life Vision
• Help me quit daydreaming about someone else's life, and start living my own.
• Help me discover what I am passionate about, my unique contribution to the world.
• Give me the organization and motivation to do something about it, and the perseverance not to give up on it.
• Let me believe that success comes not from fame and fortune, but by doing what is right.
• Help me overcome my biases to see where I have shortchanged myself and others.
• Let me quit trying to prove myself to people I don't really care about.
• Let me stop settling for a life where being "entertained" is a higher goal.
• Help me to stop wasting time on frivolity.
• Help me be unafraid to confront my challenges.
• Help me make decisions that are difficult, and to stick to them.
• Help me consider the long-term effects that my actions have on my life and on others.
• Help me invest my life in what is truly meaningful, and to quit settling for quick fixes.
• Help me not be cynical or suspicious of people.
• Help me quit beating myself up for not being perfect, and to focus instead on developing my strengths.
• Help me use all that you have given me well so that you can give me much more.
Dating & Marriage
• Let me believe that I am loveable.
• Help me find/have a truly meaningful relationship.
• Let me trust that I don't have settle, but that I deserve someone who will respect, care and cherish me for who I am.
• Let me recognize, love and cherish that someone who is right for me.
• Help me realize that my self-esteem is independent of the need to compete with others.
• Help me trust that my self-dignity will not be diminished if I give honor to others, and am happy with their success.
• Help me to be compassionate, to feel for the pain of others.
• Help me to care enough to do for others what they really need, rather than being superficially nice in order to feel good about myself.
• Help me avoid ridiculing others in order to feel empowered.
• Teach me to give people the benefit of the doubt.
• Help me to recognize that other people -- even those I dislike -- were each created with Divine potential.
• Help me to respect the environment, to preserve our world for future generations.
• Help me to feel connected to my fellow Jews and to all humanity.
• Help me find discover the relevance and wisdom of Judaism in my life today.
• Please show me the spiritual depth of our Jewish rituals.
• Help me find the joy in all that I do Jewishly.
• Help me recognize that when the world talks about Jews, they are talking about me.
• Help me to care deeply about events in the State of Israel.
• Help me believe that we are really supposed to be an example to all nations.
• Help me to take responsibility for the problems facing the Jewish people -- because if I don't, who will?
There are so many more areas that all we need help with. Yom Kippur is our big opportunity to turn to God with a full heart and ask Him to help.
Share your ideas in the comments section below.