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“This is the gift given to us on Yom Kippur—not religiosity, but an opportunity to increase and improve the spiritual and physical quality of life of all human beings.”
~ Rav Berg
This week we recognize Yom Kippur – a day when we face the darkness inside ourselves, and take a good hard look at all of our negative actions and habits – is coming. Many of us may wish to avoid the day entirely because it feels uncomfortable to examine ourselves so deeply. It’s awkward, even painful, to own up to our thoughtless or selfish deeds. However, by acknowledging our selfishness and the harm we’ve caused others (whether intentional or unintentional), we open ourselves up to meaningful spiritual transformation and many blessings.
Yom Kippur is our once-a-year opportunity to broaden our consciousness in a huge way. But it doesn’t come automatically. We have to put in the work. Simply put, without reflection, we cannot transform. When we show up and are honest about our actions, we stand to take in enough Light to help us achieve great things in the year ahead.
Michael Berg likens this intense period of reflection to dipping oneself in the Mikveh, or spiritual cleansing bath, “Yom Kippur is an immersion that can completely remove every attachment of negativity. But the negativity can be released only if we are completely immersed.” Meaning, a thorough and focused examination of ourselves is necessary.
The best way to begin this kind of spiritual work is to set aside time to be alone with your thoughts and meditate on how you hope to change. Go for a walk, or if you are fasting, sit in a quiet corner of your home where you can devote uninterrupted time to reflection. While it is true that some of our best realizations can immerge while dedicated to mundane acts, like driving to work, doing the dishes, or showering, we are better off giving ourselves over to this task completely.
On Yom Kippur, the Zohar tells us, the negative actions we remember will be forgotten and those we forget will be remembered. It is in our best interest to give this work our best effort. Lukewarm commitment will not prepare us for the immense Light that becomes available at this time of year. In recalling and identifying every single aspect of ourselves that we desire to change, we expand our vessels to hold the blessings the Creator has in store for us.
Solitary reflection is an essential part of the cleansing process. “One of the easiest ways to nullify the desire to receive for ourselves,” says Rav Berg, “is to sit quietly for a moment and isolate the specific desire that caused any accident, sorrow, or suffering we have inflicted on others. Responsibility must be taken for events, and we must decide to prevent their recurrence by destroying and canceling the desire that caused them. The moment we make this decision, we attain an alternate level of consciousness.”
True and lasting transformation is possible for each of us who commit to this uncomfortable but important spiritual work, but only if we go deep and come face to face with the hurtful things we’ve said or the selfish things we’ve done. When we desire to eradicate negativity and bad habits with all our hearts, we can then transform in a truly profound way.