Yom Kippur 5759
For the week of October 3, 1998
13 Tishri 5759
Yom Kippur - Spiritual Preparation
Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) is a pivotal holy day. It occurs ten days after Rosh Hashanah (the Festival of Trumpets - the New Year) and five days before Sukkot (The Festival of Booths). There is a very important three-stage process that occurs during these two weeks.
In ancient Israel this season marked the end of the harvest. People would have been working very hard to ensure that they would have food during the coming (hopefully) rainy winter months. When we are involved with the daily struggles of earthly survival, it is easy to lose sight of spiritual things. And so the shofar (ram's horn) would blow to remind the people that there is more to life than work, soil, and food. All good things come from God's hand. It is important to not lose perspective.
As the people's minds and hearts were once again drawn towards heavenly things, they would realize how spiritually needy they really were. In a few days would be a great celebration, but they were not ready for it, until they knew their relationship with their Creator and Provider was right. To go immediately from harvest to celebration would make the people think they themselves produced the harvest through their own ingenuity and efforts. By taking time to make sure that they were right with God made them ready to really celebrate.
Having taken the time to regain perspective and right relationship with God, the people were now ready to celebrate. Many celebrations are full of excitement and enthusiasm over the event itself. We many times find pleasure through the elements of celebration: Not having to do regular work, eating, drinking, being with family and friends, and so on. But this celebration was more than that. The focus was not to be on the festival itself, but rather it was an occasion to acknowledge and thank God for his provision in the harvest.
It was because of the preparations beforehand that enabled the people to have this focus.
We need to prepare
We often try to enter into celebration without taking the needed time to prepare ourselves. This is especially true in our fast-paced societies that don't allow for the kind of transitions we need. How different our celebrations would be if we first stopped to remember why we are doing what we are doing. As we regain perspective we may very find that there are things between God and ourselves that need to be dealt with. Then and only then can we celebrate in the way that we were intended to.