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Why I Hated Yom Kippur

Why I Hated Yom Kippur

It made me feel like a fraud. But this year is different.


I used to hate Yom Kippur. Every year, as we blew the shofar and rushed home to eat, I would secretly breathe a huge sigh of relief. It was finally over – all the misery, the moroseness, the fear – until next year. And as Passover would pass, I would start counting down to the dreaded day which was hovering just beyond the horizon.

I hated Yom Kippur because it made me feel like a fraud. I would bang away at my chest all day, enumerating all my sins, promising I was repentant. But in my heart I knew that I would return to my mean self the moment the fast was over. I didn’t believe I could ever change, that I was really worthy of life and that I would ever be able to redeem myself. So I would go through the day anxious for it to be over, hating myself for being such a big, fat fraud.

But this year has been different. In some obscure way, I am looking forward to Yom Kippur. I didn’t prepare as I "should have" – I didn't have/make/find/create the time to do a thorough spiritual accounting and reflection. I procrastinated and didn’t take advantage of the power of the 10 Days of Teshuva. But somehow I didn't dread the day. Why not? Over the past year there have been many blessings in my life. And I’ve been more proactive than ever before. I still feel guilty for the many hours I waste, but I have definitely been more productive with my time. I read more, shop less, and still sleep too much.

Related Article: To Become Like Angels

But more significantly, I have seen real glimpses of my own glory. I have seen moments of myself which are compassionate, capable and powerful. I have seen myself being a supportive friend, a loving wife and an open soul. I have seen myself connecting with people in their frailty and fragmentation, soul to soul. I have pushed my own boundaries of what I thought was possible; relationships which I had written off have been rekindled, tasks which I deemed myself incapable of were conquered.

And I have seen my smallness, too. I have seen my propensity to be critical, cold and judgmental. I have seen my ability to be harsh and cruel. And I have seen the pain I have inflicted on others and myself in these states – the sadness, the depression, the hostility. I have seen my lethargy, my disconnection and my self-pity.

But this year, my darkness is juxtaposed with my light. I realize that change is actually possible. I am not doomed to isolation, meanness and small mindedness.

This Yom Kippur, I can feel the pain of not being in a state of connection and own the consequences of my choices. I can say to God, “This is not me,” and mean it. I feel repentant, not from fear – but from a genuine desire for connection, love and transcendence. Getting in touch with my higher self that yearns to be good has enabled me to sense the sadness of my past choices.

The Talmud teaches that on Yom Kippur we are compared to angels. I never really got the comparison. Until now. On Yom Kippur all the daily responsibilities and tasks are removed; it’s a day we transcend the physical and live with total purpose. It’s a day with one sole mission, like an angel, to pray, to think and to connect – to God and to our inner soul.

And with that comes a sense of freedom and serenity, a sense of joy that comes when fulfilling your deepest purpose.

And there is joy because no matter how far and disconnected we are, we can return. No matter how many layers we have shrouded ourselves, how much anger we are consumed in – we are not stuck. There is still a second act.

I am excited for the upcoming year, hopeful for the growth which awaits, and look forward to celebrating the reestablished love and connection during Sukkot.

September 18, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 8

(7) Shoshana, September 27, 2015 8:42 AM

Thank You

I had the hardest Yom Kippur ever. I fasted as usual, read about Yom Kippur and said the 'vidui' (confession) twice. I felt so lousy with myself and, even a few days later, am still struggling to keep my head above water. Your article really helped me see that I am not alone and that I can get out of this slump little by little. For me it is important to be gentle with myself and allow myself the time that I need. Then, I can do the same for other. Chag sukkot sameyach.

(6) Jenny Nienaber, September 22, 2015 2:47 PM

What wisdom! Few people ever get to the point where they can look at themselves with the duality of "and" instead of "but" ; I am great and small; I am kind and cruel; I am wise and foolish. Special girl! Mrs N.xxxx

(5) Anonymous, June 23, 2014 9:17 PM

I lost my disconnect

Thanks for a great article.
I never got into the Yom Kippur angst, then I felt bad about my lack of angst. I was told that we all did all of these sins or if not us then a member of the community did them. The list seemed a bit contrived.
I spent months after last Yom Kippur trying to find out what G-d wanted from me. Then I remembered a story about a rabbi who said "G-d does not want me to be the greatest teacher like Moses, he does not want me to be able to interpret the Torah like Rashi. He will ask me why I wasn't the best ME I could be". That was the answer. Since then I have tried to be a better me. I am not always great or even good, but I remember to be the best me I can be.

I look at the list of sins not with the angst of "I have done wrong" but with eager anticipation to learn "What can I add to my list this year!".

It is amazing how good it feels to let a car into traffic and how guilty I feel when I cut someone off. Little things yield big rewards when I know I am being a better ME.

(4) Crystal, September 13, 2013 2:44 PM

Yom Kippur

Thank You for sharing. Good to know we are not alone in similar thought. The older I get, the more High Holydays mean to me. I truly look forward to this time of year more than any other.

(3) Aliza, September 9, 2013 2:52 AM

Thank you

Thank you for this beautifully written article it is real and thereby inspiring

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