Every once in a while we need to unclutter. Seasonally, or as the need arises, we unclutter closets, drawers, sheds, garages, basements, attics…you get the idea. Even our computers need to be defragged.
So it only makes sense that our souls also need uncluttering. That’s what the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur (Sept. 18-19th) is about: defragging our souls. This Day of Atonement gives participants a chance to repent, though my friend, Rabbi Birnham, suggests ‘repent’ is perhaps better understood as a “return” (teshuva) to our best self.
When we de-clutter a shed, for example, we make it easier to move around. It’s the same for our soul. Certain practices help us notice what’s cluttering our heart or weighing on our mind that we may not fully realize but is restricting love, peace and joy to move around within and through us.
In the 12th century, the great scholar, Maimonides, taught four practices for “return”:
- Recognize what you’ve done that hurt someone or created suffering in some way
- Regret the action — in addition to seeing the fault, one must feel it
- Resolve not to do that again
- Repair what was broken, as best you’re able
Aware of the pull of habit and the rigid tendencies of our character, Rabbi Birnham added one more:
This is nothing new to those involved in a 12-Step program which includes the need to do a fearless moral inventory, make a confession, and do what one can to make amends. It’s hard, of course, but when engaged with a sincere heart, incredibly freeing.
Yom Kippur isn’t in our tradition, but these practices certainly are. With a connection to our Jewish roots, all of us are invited to return to our Source.
“Rather than allow ourselves to be burdened by regret for our past misdeeds,
we must strive to develop the inherent goodness
which lies hidden in our souls…”
–Rabbi Joseph Stern