It’s finally that moment. The minute when the fast day is finally over.
The day has felt like it’s gone on forever and while you’ve worked hard to connect to the services, the hunger has been on your mind.
You settle back at home to finally break your fast, at long last.
And just like that, it’s almost as if the past 25 hours went by in a flash. As you bite into your food you can simply forget the feelings that you’ve been sitting with and put the day completely behind you. But is this what we’re meant to do?
It seems as if whenever anything bad happens we rush to put it behind us. We actively seek the good so that we may remain strong and seek the comfort of the positive. This is healthy and normal; it is wise to look for the positives when we are having difficulty. In most cases it shows strength. But there is also strength in feeling the bad and immersing ourselves in the negative emotions, so that we may healthfully get through the tough times. Rather than try to ignore the negativity or cover it up through a distraction or vice it is important to feel.
This theme is reflected within the Israeli calendar. Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance) in Israel, is a day of mourning and remembering and also appreciating the lives of those who have been lost. This day is immediately followed by Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) a day of pure joy where there are parades, barbeques, and celebrations.
In Israel Yom Hazikaron is a serious day in which the losses are felt. They are remembered and commemorated. But above all, people reflect and they experience the emotions. The beauty of Yom Ha’atzmaut is that it reminds people not to wallow in the sorrow, but to also experience happiness and joy.
Yom Kippur is a heavy day. Our fates for the coming year are sealed and the day is spent reflecting and repenting. The restrictions placed on this day are intended to ground us and to remind us of both our purposes and our imperfections as human beings. We use this day to clean the slate and prepare for the year to come. While Yom Kippur is a holy day or high holiday, it is not necessarily as enjoyable or celebratory as the other holidays–and it is not meant to be. We fast and spend long hours praying for both the past and the future, in recognition of our understanding of our place in this world and our understanding of HaShem.
And yet when this day passes it is easy to forget how we spent the entire day and the emotions that came with it. I believe that inner strength lies in knowing oneself and learning from the past. Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days, should be remembered. We should not rush to forget once the day is over. Instead we must feel; perhaps feel guilt, perhaps hopefulness, perhaps simply determination. But these feelings should be experienced not only on the day, but in the days to come as well.
This is not to say we should be solemn and simply introspect. Rather, we should take the lessons we have learned and bring them into our future days. After Yom Hazikaron, the soldiers and civilians who fell are not forgotten. Their lives and memories are still cherished and honoured. But, we are able to memorialize them and learn from them while also celebrating the joys of life.
As we prepare for Yom Kippur let us learn from the day and use this to aid in our growth. Rather than dwell in the heaviness of the day or simply ignore it, we can prepare to balance our emotions and use what we experience toward our future.
By Temimah Zucker