18 Uplifting Contemplations for Yom Kippur
Take a different view of what this day is about
Do not repent.
Repentance means to stop being bad and to become good.
But your essential being is always good. The bad is only on the outside.
So instead of repenting, return. Return to the essential self and to what is rightfully yours.
Teshuvah doesn’t mean repentance. Repentance means regretting who you’ve become. Teshuvah means returning to who you truly are.
Teshuvah, in English, is recovery. Recovering a lost inner self.
On Yom Kippur, we are all in recovery.
3. Take the High Road
Two rivers take you home: One flows with bitter tears of remorse,
the other with sweet tears of joy.
For most of time, the principal path of travel was the bitter one. Only once soaked in those bitter waters could you rise to embrace your G?d with joy.
But now we have experienced more than our fill of pain. That which our people suffered in lands across the ocean has purged every stain, bleached every garment of our souls, refined us and lifted us high.
We have cried enough bitter tears. Now is time to return with joy.
4. Self Pity
Self-pity is nothing less than an impulse to self-destruction. And this is its script:
“This is the way you were made. These are the facts of your situation. It’s bad. In fact, it’s so bad, it’s impossible to do anything about it. And therefore, you are free from any responsibility to clean it up. Nobody can blame you for anything.”
Self-pity is a liar and a thief.
A liar, because everyone is granted the power to clean up their own mess. A thief, because as long as it sits inside you, it is stealing away the days of your life.
5. Even Better
Every soul begins its journey as pure, lucid light. But once she enters this world, she may fall.
Even had the soul remained pure, the descent would still have been worthwhile. All the more so now that she has fallen.
True, she was meant to confine herself to the permissible; she would have enlightened that realm of the world, healed it and carried it upward.
But now that she has fallen, let her return to her true, inner self, and in doing so she will transform to light that which a pure soul would never have touched.
6. Bouncing Up
Night comes before day, pain before pleasure, confusion before wisdom. So too, the way this world was made, there is no journey forward without first a step backward.
So it is with all creatures. But we human beings, we strive not only to move forward, but to leap beyond our own nature, beyond any nature at all.
We, too, must first step back before we can leap upward. But since our leap is beyond nature, we fall, too, beneath our nature.
That is sin—a fall beneath your own nature, as one who crouches before he leaps.
And that is the power of return
—to leap beyond any bounds at all.
7. A Leap of Failure
Everything in life is a step forward; everything has meaning. It’s just that there are two ways to move forward: walking and leaping.
When you walk, you leave one foot in its place as the other moves ahead. You’re secure, you’re stable—and you never leave your comfort zone.
So sometimes you need to leap. But to do that, you need to first crouch down.
That’s the true meaning of failure: It is the crouch before the jump, the breakaway from the past so that you can leap into the future, an opportunity to do something totally unexpected.
Failure lets you go where your footsteps could never take you.
8. Time Travel
To change the past, there is no need to travel in a time machine. Everything can be done by remote control.
Here’s how it works: From beyond the continuum of time, its Creator looks at where your spaceship is heading right now. From that point, He creates all its trajectory—through the future and through the past.
Switch the direction your past is sending you. Soon enough, it becomes a different past.
9. Time Machine
If you could travel back in time, what would you change?
Perhaps you could revisit some crucial scenes and distance yourself from the mess that occurred. Perhaps you could jump in as a hero and grab credit for some of the good.
But for that, you don’t need a time machine. All you need is to stand right where you are and say, “I messed up. I dropped the ball. But I learned my lesson and now I will do things differently.”
You will change yourself. You will change your past. You will say, “I am no longer that person who lived in that past.”
In fact, you do have a time machine.
10. G?d’s Fishing Net
The soul emerges from her intimate bond with G?d and invests herself within a human form, wrapped up in the transient concerns and pain of the flesh. Yet the imprint of that bond is never erased.
It is that bond that pulls her incessantly to return, like a magnet pulled towards its lost other half. All the searching of the human soul is an outward expression of this dynamic, this thirst to return.
Yet, as innate as this yearning may be, it must nevertheless be awakened. To thirst for closeness, the soul must first realize she is distant.
That is why return in all its strength and passion is found in the soul which has wandered far from her true self—and then awakened to recognize she is lost.
There is great bounty to be found in this journey. For the soul is G?d’s fishing net. In her desperation to reunite with Him, she finds G?d in every corner of His world. And so, these too are pulled in.
And the deeper the descent, the greater the treasure.
11. Hit the Road
Getting to where you need to be is an important step.
But nothing is as important as getting out of where you’re at right now.
12. The Ultimate Delight
What is G?d’s ultimate delight?
That a human soul will build portals of light so that the Creator’s presence may shine into His creation.
That a breath from His essence will pull herself out from the mud and turn to Him in love.
That a child of His being, exiled to the shadows of a physical world, will discover that the darkness is nothing more than Father hiding, waiting for His child to discover Him there.
But none of these can reach to the essence of all delights, the origin of all things, the hidden pleasure beyond all pleasures: The delight that this breath, this soul, this child did it all on its own.
13. Getting Personal
When does a relationship become real? Once it has broken down.
As long as each fulfills the other’s expectations, there is no relationship, only a contract and its transactions. Once trust is breached, a new depth must enter: The depth of the human being.
If there is truly a relationship—if it is the person inside that matters—then there is a search for forgiveness, for return, and for healing.
So it was that within forty days of entering into a contract with the One Above, the children of Israel broke the deal. And the soul below and the One Above discovered they could not part from one another.
14. Dance With the Other
As a parent and a child, as siblings who remain bonded, as two young people in love, as in any marriage that stays alive—so we are with the One Above.
One chases, the other runs away. One runs away, the other chases in longing pursuit. One initiates, the other responds. The other initiates, the one responds.
It is a dance, a game, a duet, and it plays as surely as the pulse of life.
Until one falls away. Until it seems the game is over, that all is lost and it is time to move on.
That’s when the other looks and says, “This is not an other. We are one.” And so, they return to each other’s arms.
It is a great mystery, but in that falling apart, there is found the deepest bond.
15. The Fair Maiden’s Hero
“He found her in the field. The maiden cried out, but there was no one to hear.”—Deuteronomy 22:27
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch explained:
He does not want to be in that place. He feels himself a captive of his own desires, now a prisoner incapable of escape. Deep within him a voice screams—the scream of an innocent maiden under assault, yet hopeless that anyone can save her..
And no one hears.
No one. Nothingness. The Nothingness from which everything begins. Not just the Source of All Being, but the core essence of G?d, beyond all being. There, her cry is heard.
The screams of a fair maiden stir her hero to overcome mighty armies and slay awesome giants; so too, the cries of the soul from her captivity reach to the core of the Infinite Above.
Out of Nothingness, anything could happen.
16. Kosher Yearnings
He sits and yearns for a thing he should not have. For something beneath himself.
The yearning itself is good—to live is to yearn. If there’s nothing for which you yearn, you can hardly be said to be alive.
It’s the form this yearning has taken that is death itself. To yearn for that which is beneath you is to destroy yourself.
So the form must be crushed. Extinguished like the embers of an abandoned campfire in a dry forest.
And then that yearning can be freed, the flame of life that burns inside. That was always good. The yearning—that is life.
17. Beyond the Script
What do we bring to the table?
Our brains, our power, our beauty, are all from Him.
We can decide with our own free will to do good and to restrain ourselves from the opposite. Yet even then, we are only playing our role in the script for which we were formed.
But when we mess up, we can call out to the Infinite Light and say, “Dad, I still love you. Do you still love me?” and ask forgiveness.
That is not in the script. That is from beyond. Way beyond.
18. Divine Delights
G?d has many delights:
The delight that comes from a pure and simple act of love.
Greater than that, the delight that comes from an act of beauty sparkling in the darkness.
Greater than that, the delight when a child who has run away from Him returns with all her heart.
All the world was formed from G?d’s delight. There is nothing else.