I am a born again Jew – at least I hope to be by the conclusion of Yom Kippur this Wednesday night.
Of course, when most people hear the words “born again,” they assume the next word they will hear is, “Christian.” While that is an entirely reasonable assumption, it misses the fact that one can be a born again Jew as well, and the promise of that possibility is central to understanding the holiest day in the Jewish calendar — Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
A day of atonement, or as the word can be broken down, “at-one-ment.” Yom Kippur promises that we can seek, and ultimately discover, the unity we seek – unity with our best selves, unity with those we love or wish we could, and unity with God, or whatever higher power we call on, in whatever language we do so. We can, in effect, be born again.
In fact, the desire for rebirth is so profound, that Yom Kippur invites people to “play dead,” at least physically, for 25 hours, as they abstain from eating, drinking, caring for their bodies and even from making love. On Yom Kippur, Jewish tradition invites us to simulate our physical deaths as we refocus our attention on three basic questions: who have we been the past year, who we want to be in the year ahead, and what can we do to bridge that gap between the two. By engaging these questions, we can be born again into newly focused and meaningful lives.
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