Intriguingly, this week’s Torah reading, Achrei Mot-Kedushim, begins by describing Yom Kippur, which is the Day of Atonement, rituals in Vayikra/Leviticus 16. Why would we be studying about Yom Kippur this week while we are still months away from it? In California, we are still in spring as we begin the Hebrew month of Iyar; however, Yom Kippur will not occur until fall in the month of Tishrei.
Yom Kippur is the holiest time of the Jewish year. It is a time for reflection, introspection and most importantly, teshuvah, which is repentance, and forgiveness. It is the time especially set aside to take into account anything in our lives that stands between us and God or that stands between us and each other. Yom Kippur is the time for repairing relationships and righting wrongs. It allows us to begin anew by proverbially “burying the hatchet” or “clearing the air” regarding any gripe that we might have with each other.
Obviously, this date is very significant in that it allows us time to repair the world around us beginning with a reckoning of our own souls – so important it is that once a year is not enough to give ourselves a pause for reflecting upon this cathartic theme of Yom Kippur.
Thus, almost halfway between one year’s Yom Kippur to the next year’s Yom Kippur, we have this parashah to keep us grounded. As we read of the priestly rituals, we can take a pause to remember our own role in Yom Kippur, the self-examining and mending of relationships with God and those around us.
In the months since Yom Kippur, how have things in your life been going? Are you on track with where you would expect yourself to be since your last spiritual inventory? Have you been true to your convictions? Do you owe anyone an apology? Are you in arguments or conflicts that you could resolve today? Don’t wait until next Yom Kippur – this parashah reminds us that now is as good a time as any. You owe it to yourself to have a fresh start, and there’s no time like the present.
Congregation B’nai Chaim is located at 29500 Via Princesa in Murrieta. For more information, visit https://www.bnaichaim.com or find them on Facebook.
Hefsiba Cohen is a student rabbi and co-principal of the Lamad Academy Religious School.