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from The Jacob Project:

Are You Ready?
Approaching the Jacob Project

Becoming Engaged:
Approaching Rosh Chodesh

What's Possible?
Approaching Shabbat

What Moves You?
Approaching Social Action

What's Missing?
Approaching Yom Kippur

Are We There Yet?
Approaching Sukkot

Meaningful Media:
Approaching Torah

Lands of Milk and Honey:
A Jewish Approach
to Thanks...giving

Celebrating Our Year Together

Our Movement's Principles:
Approaching Reform

Chosen for What?
Approaching Passover

God, Science, and
Living with Uncertainty

It's Your Choice:
Approaching Shavuot
What's Missing?
Approaching Yom Kippur

Faced with a (rather fitting, in retrospect) delay in our pizza delivery, we delved right into our apples and honey and our discussion, "What's Missing? Approaching Yom Kippur." First, a quick survey of hands: How many of you spent all day at services last Yom Kippur? Not many hands. How many were moved to tears? No hands. How many were bored to tears? One very brave, honest hand. "It felt like…just turning pages."

If the point of Yom Kippur is to atone for our sins and transgressions, it is understandably difficult to find this holy day personally meaningful when we do not feel as though we've done anything terribly wrong. Sure, when we truly feel we have "sinned" or "transgressed," we absolutely feel the weight of this holiday – the liturgy makes more sense, the music really moves us, we sincerely ponder things like how we treat people, whether or not we are good at heart, how capable we are of harm... But "sin" and "transgression" feel like strong words. Does the average person, in the average year, leading a decent life, really feel as though he or she has sinned, or truly wronged anybody, or caused harm?

In the absence of a "standout" reason to atone weighing on our conscience, how should we approach a day of atonement? Perhaps one pathway to finding personal meaning in Yom Kippur is the idea that we are expected to atone not just for the sins we commit, but also for our sins of omission. What did we neglect to do this past year that could have made a difference in the world or in someone's life? Did we visit the elderly in our family? Did we send aid to the hurricane victims and evacuees? Did we try to raise awareness of the genocide in Darfur? In our religion, we are taught not to stand idle… and certainly in our people's history, we've seen that what we don't do can have as tangible and tragic an effect on the world as what we do do. The very idea that we are to atone for our sins of omission reiterates a theme we've touched on before in previous Jacob Project discussions: that Judaism holds us to a higher standard and demands more from us, but that what it offers in return is a world worth living in.

Perhaps on Yom Kippur each of us can find meaning by asking ourselves "what's missing?" What are we neglecting to do and to be, individually and as a community, and what should be our role in the world? Letting our physical hunger awaken our awareness of what the world is hungry for, and thinking about how we might feed it in the year to come, could be a most meaningful way to spend this holiest day of our Jewish year.

--Nickie Roberts

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Yih'yu l'ratzon imrei fi v'hegyon libi l'fanecha Adonai tzuri v'goali.

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