In just a few hours, we'll all be in shul in some semblance of white clothing and unfashionable non-leather shoes at the very start of the 25-hour fast-and-pray marathon that is Yom Kippur. It is the day of the Jewish year when we reach the peak of spirituality, when we are compared to angels, when we have little contact with the physical world. It is a day to utilize spirituality alone, to be as close to God as possible.
But we are not spiritual beings. Yom Kippur is an important day; it enables us to scale certain spiritual heights and to reconnect to Hashem on a certain level. It enables us to refresh ourselves on a religious plane. But we cannot live as angels. We need to eat and drink and wear leather shoes (ok, fine, you can argue with that one, but I have a very pretty pair of new shoes which just happens to be leather sitting in my room, and I would argue that I NEED to wear them). We need to act and interact in a physical world.
So what then do we do with this spiritual peak of Yom Kippur? Is that it? Do we sin in the physical world all year long and then do teshuva on a spiritual realm for a single day and return to the dark depths of physicality?
No. The entire set-up of the holidays this month (that set-up that is oh-so-frustrating to a college student who is missing lots of class) is designed to bring that spiritual peak of Yom Kippur into the physical realm of the rest of our lives, so that instead of coming out of the holiest day of the year with a clean slate just to be sullied once again, we have the ability to grow in our observance and dedication to Hashem throughout the year and through our physical world.
First, we have Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year where we are raised above the physical and are wholly spiritual.
Then, Succot, a holiday where we eat and drink, but are removed from our daily physical lives and instead live in huts outside of our homes.
Then, Shemini Atzeret, a yom tov still with all the specialness that entails, but back in the comfort of our houses (and outside of the rainy cold weather that invariably begins as soon as we move into our succot). We are still enveloped by the spirituality of the holidays, but now we are one step closer to our daily lives.
Then, isru chag, the day after yom tov. We are fully moved back into everyday life, but there is still an element of spirituality associated with the day.
And then, we move to the month of Cheshvan - a month devoid of any holidays, a month that is totally mundane. But that's the point. Now that we've had the spiritual moment of Yom Kippur and the calendar has helped us integrate that into our daily lives, we have a full month of daily life to accomplish just that.
So, as we fast and pray and traverse those high spiritual realms this Yom Kipppur, my wish for all of us is that we are able to bring that spirituality back with us into our every-day lives, so that we can continue to grow throughout the upcoming year.
Gmar ketiva v'chatima tova.