For those of us who are of the Jewish faith today is the Day of Atonement. Today is Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur signals the end of the High Holy days and the Days of Awe that separates the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashonah, and today, Yom Kippur. In Jewish tradition the Days of Awe represent G-d’s writing of each person’s name and their fate for the upcoming year, and on this day he seals that fate. Jewish men and women around the world today will abstain from work, from food, and attend services at synagogue.
Essentially Yom Kippur is the last day to atone for the sins of the past year and more specifically for the sins between man and G-d.
There is a short story I would like to share today with all of you about a young Jewish man who wanted to learn how to atone for his sins.
The young man went to his Rabbi and asked him if he may observe the Rabbi atoning for his sins. The Rabbi asked the young man how he atoned for his sins, and the man said, ‘I hold the prayer book in my hand and read from the text, I am nought but an ordinary Jew.’ The Rabbi looked at him over his glasses and said, “Child, I too then am an ordinary Jew, and do just as you do. If you want to see an inspiring atonement go to see Moshe, the tavern-keeper.”
So the young man did as his Rabbi told him and went to the tavern and asked to stay the night. Moshe said with sorrow, “I am sorry child I don’t have any rooms this is a mere tavern, but I see that you are tired and weary if you wish I can make you a bed in the corner and you can sleep there.” The young man gladly accepted and took up his space in the corner feigning sleep, but in truth patiently waiting for the moment of atonement.
Just before dawn Moshe rose, and called on his wife to bring him his diary. He then took his notebook sat on a stool, and lit a candle. Slowly he opened up his diary and began to read out loud what was a book of misdeeds and transgressions. As he read through his list of small sins (a word of gossip, oversleeping for prayer, forgetting to give a coin to charity) the young man sat quietly in the corner observing. Soon he realized that Moshe’s face was bathed in tears and he continued to read for more than an hour.
Finally, he put down his diary and called on his wife to bring him his second diary. This was a list of misfortunes and troubles that had happened over the past year (the night he was beaten up by his drunk customers, the day his child fell sick, the days during winter when he was unable to supply firewood for his family, the morning the family’s cow died) and again he read for over an hour the entire time his face was bathed in tears.
When he closed his book, he knelt down on the floor, closed his eyes, looked heavenwards, and said, “So you see, dear Father in Heaven, I have sinned against You. Last year I repented and promised to fulfill Your commandments, but I repeatedly succumbed to my evil inclination. But last year I also prayed and begged You for a year of health and prosperity, and I trusted in You that it would indeed be this way.
"Dear Father, today is the eve of Yom Kippur, when everyone forgives and is forgiven. Let us put the past behind us. I'll accept my troubles as atonement for my sins, and You, in Your great mercy, I hope will do the same."
With that Moshe took his two diaries lifted them above his head and said, “This is my atonement Lord, this is my exchange.” He then threw his misdeeds, transgressions, misfortunes, and troubles into the fire and soon the coals turned his tear-stained pages to ashes.
Although Yom Kippur is a holy day for people of the Jewish faith, reflection is a universal ability. Yet, with the hectic lives we live these days there is very little time to reflect, so for a moment let us reflect and take the opportunity to turn our tear-stained pages to ashes.
Let us be silent.