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Shabbat Yom Kippur: An Oxymoron?

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10 Tishrei 5774 / September 13-14, 2013

Dan Horwitz photo

Our tradition describes Yom Kippur as “Shabbat Shabbaton” – the “ultimate Shabbat.”

Given our usual association of Shabbat with rejoicing (whether by eating great food, relaxing with our families, being intimate in the bedroom, etc.), it seems odd that we’d compare a day like Yom Kippur, where we specifically avoid comforts, to Shabbat.

On Yom Kippur, we’re not meant to wear leather shoes or other animal products, we’re not meant to eat or drink, to have sexual relations, to bathe, or to put on deodorant, perfume or lipstick. All in all, that makes it a bit challenging to rejoice and treat Yom Kippur like it’s the ultimate Shabbat, and this year, even more so, as Yom Kippur falls on Saturday.

In Hebrew, Yom Kippur is called “Yom HaKippurim.” One of my rabbis once pointed out that the construct of the name is particularly interesting, as if read quickly, one might hear it as “Yom K’Purim” – which literally translates to “a day like Purim.” We’re meant to be joyous on the holiday of Purim. What are the implications of suggesting that Yom Kippur is meant to be joyous like Purim, despite us denying ourselves our traditional comforts?

Can we come to view Yom Kippur as a celebration of having been fortunate enough to live/survive the past year? Can we view it as a day of joy given that our tradition makes clear that the power is in our hands to apologize for our wrongdoings and to recommit ourselves to being better people? And can we see it as an opportunity for rejoicing given that our shortcomings are lifted off our shoulders and are embodied by the community?

Yom Kippur, and everything it stands for, provides myriad opportunities for us to express our joy and gratitude – just as on Shabbat, we're meant to rejoice (oneg Shabbat). While we may practice self-denial in some ways, the fact that we even have those things to deny ourselves is cause for great celebration, as it’s a reminder as to how blessed we are.

This Yom Kippur, find a way to appreciate and find joy in the holiday. Make your Yom HaKippurim just a bit more like Yom K’Purim. Have the ultimate Shabbat experience. Come be part of community. And may we all be sealed in the Book of Life.

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