So often we rush out of services too soon to experience how the day changes and evolves. Just because Yom Kippur is a heavy day laden with talk of teshuva, judgment, and reflection, does not also mean that Yom Kippur cannot be happy as well. Yom Kippur is filled with complex emotions. On Erev Yom Kippur and on Yom Kippur morning, the liturgy is heavy on the ways we have gone astray and the ways we can improve in the year to come, but as the day goes on the mood brightens. The last service of the day, Ne’ilah, is triumphant service that proclaims, we are here, we have been forgiven and pardoned, and we can enter the new year with a clean slate!
The idea of Yom Kippur as the most joyous day of the year goes back to the Talmud. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, one of our greatest sages, said that Yom Kippur was a day of dancing and music in his time. Later rabbis wonder why Yom Kippur was so happy in Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel’s time. They realize that the point of Yom Kippur is to face the future with our best selves. God has pardoned and forgiven us, and now it is time to take a clean slate and make the future shine even brighter. Yom Kippur is a roller coaster day that begins in humility and ends in rejoicing.
If you haven’t experienced Ne’ilah at Temple Emanu-El before, it is a service like no other during the Yom Kippur experience. The melodies are uplifting, the words are about thriving in the year to come, and it all comes to a crescendo at the end with a t’kiyah g’dolah. When we leave the sanctuary at the end of Ne’ilah, we take in a big breath of life in anticipation for the year ahead. I hope to see you there for the final blast of the shofar that takes us into a sweet new year of 5779.
Ne’ilah begins at 5:45 pm on Wednesday, September 19