Our Hebrew observance of Yom Kippur is not what you’ll find in the search engines; the current traditions that have been set for many years are not followed among our people.
In fact, I was astounded to see a search option come up to show that the scapegoat was taken to its death on this Holy Day.
In fact, as I pondered on that change to the commands, it occurred to me that my picture of that scapegoat was also in error.
When the bull and the two rams were chosen for Yom Kippur, it would not be clear which of the rams was to be the offering and which was to be the scapegoat, as the lots had not yet been cast by the High Priest. The rams would have both been choice, healthy and vigorous animals. Fit, without blemish, choice for offering to Almighty.
The ram that was sent away with the sins of the community figuratively upon its head would have been capable of survival in that wilderness, should it make it past the predators in the early time period. Accustomed to domestic life, there would be a quick learning curve – or death. But the ram was not sent to die – rather it was released to freedom, to a clean slate. Its choices would determine its future.
So it is for us, should we follow the commands – the command to refrain from work and the command to afflict our souls.
Unlike the days of unleavened bread, where we’re commanded not to eat leaven, we are not commanded not to eat on Yom Kippur. We’re commanded to afflict our souls. That is a hard concept and leaves some room for translation. To my mind it means to reflect, to self-examine and find my inner motives, my inner workings and check them against Torah expectations to see where I find myself lacking. It’s also to recall where I’ve made outright errors according to the Torah laws and to acknowledge that guilt, that fault that should have already had restitution made and to bring that to the forefront as an item that would today be released.
And so the day began. A pot of coffee to stir the mental works. A bit of rest upon the cozy sofa as the achy morning muscles and joints stirred and loosened. A little bit of music once the brain cells were beginning to fire.
Then the journal and favorite pen were pulled out and the commencement of self inspection began.
Well timed, the Holy convocation – the meeting with the community – was announced and began, only moments after the pen was set aside and just after I had snacked on curry seasoned cashews.
We discussed our perspectives on the day. We talked about the happenings of the week, and a few current events. We discussed concerns over family, and life. And then we spent some time talking of those joys we’ve had, those things we look forward to and relish, and how thankful we are for those.
After the convocation, a quick lunch and a short walk for the dog, I returned to the inspection and discovered a few more items for which I could find reason for relief of guilt, for cleaning the slate. Items that I could improve upon.
Not every moment of the day has been spent wallowing in self pity for wrong doing – and moments outside of the meeting and the self inspection were not swept away by napping.
I set a bluegrass station on the stereo as background and did some wishful thinking, some reading, and some thinking about the fall weather approaching.
And look forward to the evening and a clean slate – and a full return to the rituals commanded by Almighty.