At its core,
Yom Kippur is the happiest day of the Jewish calendar: It is the day of reconciliation
In the days of the Temple, when the High Priest served God with sacrifices,
Yom Kippur was the day when the holiest name of God was pronounced anda scarlet
thread would miraculously turn white, indicating that people's sins were forgiven.
Today, the work of reconciliation must be done by each individual, and there
is no actual proof that our prayers have been accepted or even heard. But Yom
Kippur still holds the promise that the seemingly infinite gap between God and
ourselves can indeed be bridged.
In the Torah, Yom Kippur has two aspects.
The first is the elaborate Temple ritual, in which the High Priest donned
garments he wore on no other day.
The second is a simple command to the people: Afflict your spirits.
This is interpreted as a five-fold abstinence: from food, from drink, from
sex, from wearing leather shoes, and from anointing oneself with oil. Combined
with longest prayer service of the year, the result is an attempt at pure spirituality.
For one day we seek to escape the bonds of the flesh and, like the angels, engage
ourselves solely in the worship of God. Just as Yom Kippur was the only day
when the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies, it remains is
the one day where we are permitted to experience intense ascetism in the pursuit
of oneness with God.