Just this week, while chatting with one of our Temple Emanu-El teens, she relayed to me: “Rabbi, Yom Kippur is going to be so hard this year. Usually, we are at synagogue, away from our home’s distractions, and definitely away from the one place I try to not pay attention to all day…the kitchen! But this year, we are literally attending Yom Kippur services from our kitchen!”
She’s not wrong. Like Rosh HaShanah, many of our members will attend Yom Kippur services from their kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, TV rooms, and sunrooms. For the first time in years, no one can kvetch that we kept the air too hot or too cold (that’s on you this year!). The mundane spaces of our home will be made holy by the sacred words we sing out from the walls of our mikdash m’at (miniature sanctuary). Though there will be new distractions we have not had to face in years past, there will also be new opportunities to enhance our holiday experience.
While it may be tempting to sleep through the hard part of the fast, we sort of miss the point of the spiritual exercise if that’s how we engage with it (don’t get me wrong, a little nap is totally appropriate). On Yom Kippur, we deprive our bodies of physical sustenance to make ourselves physically vulnerable and open to a higher spiritual experience.
It may also be more tempting than ever to attend services and then hop right back on your Zoom meetings for work or school. But if possible, I encourage you to truly disengage from work, from school, from three-hour naps, and from the more mundane things one could do around the house.
Rather, I invite you to try the following:
- If you’re praying with family, take the time you would have spent in the car ride home talking about the service or the sermon, and talk about it as you stretch out on the couch.
- Set aside time on Yom Kippur day to write a letter to yourself about your hopes and prayers for the year ahead. Put the letter in an envelope and seal it up to be read next Yom Kippur.
- Reach out to family or friends you haven’t spoken to in a while and wish them a g’mar chatima tovah and a meaningful day.
- If you’re attending Yizkor, pull out photo albums or items that remind you of the person you are remembering. Set them out during the afternoon, and if you have children at home, tell them about the person you are remembering. Share with your children the lessons they taught you that you hope they will keep with them as well.
- Finally, if you’ve never had the experience of our N’ilah service because you were heading to a break-the-fast event or because you never grew up going, try it out this year!
Check out the full schedule of Yom Kippur virtual experiences HERE
However you engage and wherever you pray, may it be meaningful, may it be engaging, may it be comfortable (and also a little uncomfortable), may it be holy, and may you be blessed.
You may be praying from the kitchen this Yom Kippur, but I pray that your experience of the holiday will nonetheless be deeply meaningful.
Shana Tova and Shabbat Shalom,