What do you think is the most important day in the Jewish calendar? Some will answer Yom Kippur, since we fast for 25 hours and plead to God to forgive our sins. Some will answer Shabbat. Some will answer Passover. I submit to you that while these are excellent answers, I offer a different one: the day after Yom Kippur. “The day after?” you inquire. What is so special about the day after Yom Kippur?
We will have spent the better part of 25 hours not only fasting, but engaged in prayer, beseeching God to forgive our sins, as well as seeking forgiveness from those that we have wronged. As one leaves the synagogue after the shofar has sounded announcing the conclusion, there is a feeling of renewal, of spiritual refreshment, of recharge. It is enervating and uplifting, despite the absence of food and water for the entire fast. My big question to you is: How do you reflect this the following day?
If you are unchanged in any way, then why were you in services and why did you fast? One must leave synagogue a different person from when they entered. The review of the year has concluded, and the repentance that we have engaged in can lead us to a better version of ourselves. However, we have to carry our good intentions to the next day, and focus no longer on our wishes to be better, but the implementation of those wishes. Otherwise, we just wasted what could have been a meaningful day in our journey called life. If you want to emerge from synagogue feeling cleansed of sin, then you cannot resume where you left off before you entered. By admitting that we sin, we have to change to become a better person, as that completes the attempts at repentance and acknowledges our sincerity. Anything less is an affront to God and an insult to those that we have wronged.
The day after Yom Kippur is the true test if we meant it. All the chest-beating and recitations of both the short and long confessions were worthless if we are the same. I hope that your fast will be meaningful, and that you emerge from synagogue energized and devoted to becoming an even better version of yourself. The world certainly needs all of us to be the best that we can be. G’mar Hatimah Tovah.