On this day the heart is quieted.
Our desire is for God alone.
All kinds of disputes, spiritual or material, are resolved.
Peace comes bringing happiness and joy.
—Likutey Eitzos, The Advice Book
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov makes a chain from five links of the inner Yom Kippur experience.
The first insight the Rebbe gives us is one of wonder: he tells us that the holy fast day of Yom Kippur is so charged with vitality that it actually gives life to all the other days. On this dynamic day our heart, however, is quieted, subdued. The lifeblood pumping heart is may be gentled, but the day itself gives life.
Feelings of the Heart
In popular culture when the heart pumps most fiercely, it is celebrated in music, art, and literature. The nations’ hearts spark and flare over intimate relationships, politics, war, and sports. Passion, intensity, and desire are admired. The general world ethos of the role of the heart fuels a multi-billion dollar music industry, from indie to Latin to opera, not to mention other art, entertainment, team sports, politics, and war.
Judaism values the the intense feelings of the heart, but in the form of passion, intensity, and yearning for God. Tender compassionate love and the desire to give to others are also feelings we treasure.
But these feelings are not innate. Unless kindheartedness is cultivated, the heart can easily burn with hurt, anger, shame, vengefulness, jealousy, harmful, even self-destructive desires, and other far-from-loving feelings.
A Jew is taught that the head should lead the heart. This doesn’t mean that the head should squash the heart and stamp out emotion and Judaism doesn’t demand a reliance on intellect over belief and faith. It does teach that the thoughts of the head should inform the stirrings of the heart. In return, the heart allows itself to be led so that its loving-kind nature is revealed and maximized. Then, the heart’s powers of loving connection can be channeled towards our relationships with others, ourselves, and God.
Rebbe Nachman tells us that “The main thing the Compassionate Creator wants is the heart.” But, we have to start with the head. On Yom Kippur, we’re given the opportunity to open up and give our hearts wholeheartedly to Hashem, God.
So we don’t forget that the heart is integral to Yom Kippur’s special service, during our verbal confession, which is repeated numerous times throughout the day, we beat (lightly) our heart with our closed fist, as we name the ways in which we have misused its vital energy or allowed it to turn to stone.
On the list are transgressions that most of us have never even contemplated, let alone engaged in, such as murder or theft. But still, we beat our own heart. If one of our fellow Jews’ hearts’ is hurting, stumbling, fossilizing, or losing its way in transgression, our own heart is also hurt, has also stumbled, fossilized, and lost its way. We beat our heart for ourselves and for our sisters and brothers. The Jewish people are a soul-nation.
Somehow, each Yom Kippur, no matter how much fear and awe we feel at Kol Nidre, the opening service, by the time of the final service, Neilah, we feel embraced by Hashem. We know that the offering of our hearts has been accepted with love and our desire is for God alone.
By the end of the day, too the disputes and conflicts we’ve been embroiled in up until now are shown to be the phantasms that they truly are. We are flooded with a sense of peace and well-being., happiness and joy, that all the Vitamin D, mountain air, kale, or even hugs in the world can’t begin to compete with.
We complete the five services of Yom Kippur. Our hearts are whole.
Gmar Chasima Tova.
Wishing You a Yom Kippur with Heart,
Photo: Lehava Kiryat Shmona Pikiwiki Israel