Mara Kleiman: Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday. Yes, really! | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Mara Kleiman: Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday. Yes, really! 


I realize when I tell people that Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday, they might think I’m crazy. How can a day with no food and water even get close to some of the joyous Jewish holidays such as Purim and Chanukah?  

There is such a power, such a beauty about the Yamim Noraim, the 10 days of awe, that creates this holiness in time, in my opinion, unlike any of the other holidays, except for, of course, Shabbat. The peak of that holiness is on Yom Kippur. 

In a world so seemingly distant from the onset of Jewish thought and practice, I strive to always identify points of relevancy and meaning in our world today. One way I believe we can create that relevancy is through action – what do Jewish beliefs, values and traditions call me to do that will make a difference in my world today and the future? What is my call for action? 

This is exactly what the Shofar represents. When we hear the sound of the shofar, it’s our call for action –  Wake up! Look around you. What is happening in our world? Of course, this can be a challenging feat as the world is changing drastically before our eyes. Whether it’s with technology and the new element of AI, or human influence on climate change, human influence is making an impact on the future. Have we already forgotten only yesterday, when we didn’t allow our children to play outside because of bad air quality? Natural disasters, wildfires, extreme temperatures, the loss of seasons – this is the human influence.  

This season is the birthday of the world, the birthday of humanity, the birthday of when we were given our first responsibility: protect the land. What fingerprints do we want to leave on the world when we are no longer here? How will we assure a beautiful world for our future generations? 

But the shofar is simultaneously saying something else. “If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, then when?” Pirkei Avot 1:14 

The shofar reminds us that it’s not just what we believe, or even what we say, but it’s our actions that truly activate the transformation. We can’t sit back as bystanders, watching the future come to be before our eyes. “If not now when”— we must take action.  It’s the essence of action that renews our soul on Yom Kippur. Teshuva, tefillah and tzedakah — the power to cleanse our soul is through these three actions. Teshuva is returning, tefillah is prayer, and tzedakah is charity.  

Why is Yom Kippur my favorite holiday? How blessed are we to have a day with an inherent power to cleanse my soul, bring me back to my true purpose in life, and let me start fresh.  

If someone performs one mitzvah, they tip the balance and that of the entire world to the side of merit and bring deliverance and salvation to themselves and others. This is implied in Proverbs. 

Let’s do teshuva together, bringing awareness to our responsibilities to ourselves, to those around us, to our world today, and to the future. Let’s bring ourselves to action, remembering that whether we have an influence on just one person, or thousands, we are in the process of cultivating the future – we must take action to assure our values live on. What action will you take this new year to assure the fingerprint you’re leaving on the world is one you are proud of?