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The Yoga of Yom Kippur

September 21, 2009

“But on the tenth day of this seventh month it is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation unto you, and you shall afflict your souls, and you shall bring a fire-offering to the Lord. And you shall do no work on this very day for it is a day of atonement to atone for you before the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23:27-28)



In the cycle of Jewish life, Yom Kippur is the deepest day of intimacy with the Divine. For 24 hours, Jews abstain from food, liquid, washing, sex and wearing leather in order to distance themselves from the material world, to dwell in the realm of the angels and to view the truth of their lives from the vantage point of their deaths. It is about human failure and Divine forgiveness.

Yom Kippur prayers emphasize the cleansing of the soul, the opportunity of change/repentance, atonement. The Vidui (confessional prayers) are in the plural to remind us that we as a community are collectively responsible for one another. From a yogic perspective, it is about looking clearly at the dukha (suffering) one has created and asking for God’s help in diminishing negative samscaras (patterns.) It is about experiencing our broken-heartedness and opening our hearts to the Divine. Through returning to the Source (T’shuvah,) soulful prayer (T’fillah,) and acts of generosity and righteousness (T’zedakah) we commit to creating a life of blessing in the year to come.


In peace and loving gratitude,


Sangha Yoga Shala will be closed from 5pm on Sunday 9/27 – Monday 9/28 in honor of Yom Kippur.  Regular classes resume on Tuesday 9/29.

to come.
One Comment leave one →
  1. September 27, 2009 9:37 pm

    What beautiful words, Thank you.
    Here is what a Kabbalah teacher shared with me :

    “It must be understood that this tremendous gift that is given to us on this day is like a task given to a small child by his mother and father. The loving parents give their son time to complete the task. However, after some time, the small child feels that he cannot finish the task alone so he cries, as children often do, to his parents, and out of their love for him, they help him complete the task.

    The moral is that we did not fully purify ourselves during Elul or on Rosh Hashanah, so our spiritual parents, whose love for us is beyond all limits and logic, tell us, “Come to us, beloved children, come to us and we will assist you in purification and atonement.” And according to this explanation, the words of the Ari are understandable. For when we go up to Binah, which is called Ima Elyonah, she is really calling us to help us in the effort of purification from the klippot-layers of the desire to receive for the self alone that we sink ourselves into throughout every passing year. We must be awakened by this tremendous love and gift, which are given to us on Yom Kippur which is beyond the limitation of nature.

    And if what The Ari writes is understood, our sins are not mentioned on Rosh Hashanah; but on Yom Kippur, our sins are mention in every prayer. And according to the above metaphor, on Yom Kippur we are with our loving parents and we are like a child who says to his parents, “Daddy, this hurts. Mommy, this also hurts. Help me.” In the same way, on Yom Kippur we mention our sins so that our spiritual parents will find the medicine for all of our ailments.

    It is written: “Rabbi Akiva said, ‘Praiseworthy is Israel, before whom are you purified? Who purifies you? Your Father in Heaven does, as it is written: “And I will throw upon you waters of purification and you will be purified,” and also: “The mikveh (‘ritual bath’) of Israel is Hashem.” That is the secret of Yom Kippur: It is the day on which we are purified by the fact that we go into the mikveh known as Hashem-The Light. In other words, on Yom Kippur we leave this world, remove our physical garments, and completely immerse in mikveh water (Hashem) and by this we are purified. If we understand this idea, then we understand the immeasurable power of this day.

    And if the above is understood, then why don’t we eat, drink, or wear leather shoes on Yom Kippur? Because we leave and remove ourselves from this world so that we can completely immerse in the mikveh water of Hashem. Therefore, in order to merit Yom Kippur’s gift of purity from this mikveh, we must completely immerse ourselves. Just as in the actual mikveh, if a single hair does not go under the water of the mikveh, a person is not purified. Only by virtue of immersing ourselves in this holy and awesome day with our minds, senses, and bodies can we merit the tremendous mikveh known as Yom Kippur.
    It is on this day which we cleanse ourselves of the filth of the desire to receive for the self alone in which we are immersed, we must be happy because we are cleaning our bodies so that the Creator will be able to cast His Light upon us throughout the year to come.

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