The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur is a day of introspection and prayer. In Israel, it’s a day of closed business and empty streets. The great soul-searching that began on Rosh HaShana climaxes at sunset on this holiest of days, when we seek to connect to the Creator as closely as humans can. We put physicality aside for an entire day, refraining from life-sustaining and life-creating activities as an expression of faith and reliance on the one who made the world.
Which is not to say that Jews don’t love, and celebrate, life’s good things: Le-chaim! is the toast that Jews say when raising a celebratory glass of wine. It means: to life! And as life is a precious gift rooted in the spiritual world, it’s people’s job to release the spiritual spark in everything that lives.
Sounds so esoteric, right? How in the world do you manage that? The answer is: by honoring and protecting creation. Spiritual comes down to the physical. For example, even if you don’t fast, here are some suggestions on how to repair your eating habits. And others on atoning for environmental sins.
Prayer may not be your thing. But you can review your spiritual account by using familiar objects that, whether you’re conscious of it or not, compose a running commentary on your life and reflect your ecological footprint.
1. Read what your credit card statement says. Does it show lots of expenditure on take-out food? A home-made meal is tastier, healthier, and a better maker of quality time with the family. What impulse purchases appear there whose price might have been given to needy people? How much gasoline are you buying? You might consider walking, biking, or taking public transportation more often.
2. How about your electricity, gas and water bills? Your utility bills reflect your usage of the planet’s precious, and dwindling, resources.
4. Search your fridge. Got any dying veggies in there, yogurts way past expiry date, something moldy in the back of the shelf? Resolve to buy less and reduce waste. A good rule of thumb: cook everything you buy, and eat everything you cook.
5. Search your closets. Most of us hang on to clothes in good condition that we’ll never put on again. Unless a long-unused garment has sentimental value – I myself keep a certain little flowered dress that all my daughters have worn – donate it to a cause you respect. And if you have clothes languishing for attention that need only a button replaced or a few stitches, take the minutes to repair them, and start wearing them again. You might have more cool threads than you thought.
6. Time how many minutes or hours you typically spend with techno-toys. Surfing the Net, watching TV, chatting online with strangers while family or friends would love to spend some time with you. Maybe you can find more life-affirming ways to unwind, like reading, taking a walk, or getting together with someone you keep thinking of but haven’t made time to contact. Tafline gives us some powerful ideas about going offline on Yom Kippur.
I wish you a meaningful Yom Kippur.
More thoughts that hover between the spiritual and the material:
Image of autumn landscape in the mountains, sunrise via Shutterstock