On Yom Kippur the opposite is true. We go forth in the world as if naked, our imperfections, the core of our ultimate humanity on display. We take off all masks and scrub ourselves clean as if we have just stepped from the Mikveh. The laws of Yom Kippur correspond with the laws of mourning: no showering or brushing teeth, no food and water k’zayit (the size of an olive- which size is discussed at length in the Talmud), no sex, no wearing of leather and wrapping ourselves in white. We pray all day, pleading for our lives, “Who shall live and who shall die”. All the Torot are taken from the ark and we are left staring into an empty coffin, perhaps our own.
Is Yom Kippur truly about our mortality? On Rosh Hashanah we are born and on Yom Kippur we die. Ten days to truly live our lives and make the changes we need for our soul to grow and allow us to be who we are. On Yom Kippur we take a day out of life, to reflect on our death. How will we be remembered? What will our legacy be? Will it be our achievements at work? Time spent with friends and family. What will your eulogy say? “Who shall live and who shall die.” We pray for personal and communal redemption, clothed in our weakness and our flaws. We cry out to God to accept us as we are and make vows that have already been nullified because we are human.
At Yizkor we remember our ancestors who lay our foundation with brick and mortar. We remember and speak their names, making them come alive, if only for a moment. We remember who they were. We remember the lessons they taught through living. We remember….we pray, that some one will remember us. And then we stand for Ne’ilah in the darkened room. Living corpses, pale, tired, mouths fouled by the stench of not eating or drinking, but still singing with all the strength we have. Singing together asking God and ourselves to forgive us, accept us before the gates are closed.
With the flick of a match, we are renewed, the Havdalah candle marking a return to life and light. Wine exploding in our mouths, filling us with a bit of joy. Spices enticing our senses, awakening us to our desires, where we go and eat and drink our fill. We have walked through the valley of death, surrounded by our community and have been transformed. We have allowed others to see our twisted scars and our brokenness and have been accepted.