A reflection on the Day of Atonement:
I have always felt that when a husband and wife have a disagreement an invisible emotional wall can begin to build between them. If the disagreement or argument is not ‘nipped in the bud’, this ‘wall’ can grow and grow and seem more impenetrable by the hour and by the day.
And it seems to me that someone, at some stage, needs to break down this wall that can seem so wide and deep and unbreakable. It takes someone to crack, to lose their anger or hurt and blaming attitude, and instead humble themselves in an attempt to break through with no guarantee that they will succeed. And sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the wall remains for hours or days and so their sense of humility and apologetic servitude needs to remain clearly seen.
And perhaps, if such walls have been built too often and too strong in the past, this time the wall may not crumble and fall and the relationship may be irreparably damaged. I mourn to see this ending of marriages. How much more must it grieve the Almighty.
As each person blames the other for the problems in the relationship, there needs to come a time when one of them makes the choice to accept their own weaknesses; and take responsibility for their own role in this discord. The alternative may be that they instead allow their arrogance to contribute to the slow breakdown of the relationship.
As long as both the husband or wife are in the blaming mode, they will find no common ground. Once they move from blaming to accepting responsibility, there is a hope of a move forward.
This is, in essence, what the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is about.
We may have drifted away from God over the past year. We have not taken pleasure in His world in the way we know we should. We have not moved ourselves into deeper levels of Godliness. We have not taken Him seriously enough.
But worse, perhaps we have been blaming Yehovah Himself for the things that are not working well in our lives.
Perhaps we blame Him for our pain; for our lack of closeness to Him or even for His appearing to be hidden from us. Perhaps we see a world of ignorance, division, evil and suffering and we wonder where He is in all of this, and so in a sense we blame Him.
But it is we who are the real problem in the relationship, not Yehovah!
Yom Kippur is about stopping the blaming and instead taking responsibility.
Yom Kippur gives us another opportunity to stand before Him, fisted hand against heart and say, “God: it’s not your fault.” I take responsibility. I am not who I should be, so life is not what it could be. I am the problem in the relationship, not You.
I will begin the process of reconciliation.
When the emotional wall is torn down and a husband and wife reconcile, there is great relief and joy that the closeness and intimacy has been restored and that they are ‘one’ again.
Yom Kippur can be a day when any wall that has been built between us and our Father in Heaven can be torn down and rejoicing can take place! This relationship, unlike the marital one, is always retrievable. We are always to blame. Yehovah is always ready to embrace us.
Yom Kippur involves three essential steps to successful repentance (teshuvah):
- taking responsibility for our actions,
- identifying the root cause of our wrongdoings, and
- realizing that, far from despising us for our transgressions, God wants us to come back to Him.
This is an opportunity to realign our lives with our goals, to rebuild ourselves, and to renew our relationship with our Creator. At its root, Yom Kippur is a day of true joy.
God wants to be merciful. He wants us to repent and come back to Him.
Your yetzer hara (evil inclination) may try to dissuade you and implant a voice of despair. “Look at you! You’ve strayed so far. You’re irredeemable. How can you even dream of returning? God can’t possibly want you back!”
But the whole narrative of the Bible is that the Almighty wants a relationship with us. He never gives up on us, no matter how far we’ve strayed. It’s never too late to begin again, to break down that wall and regain an intimacy with our Creator and Redeemer.
Repent (turn back) from your failures.
Reconcile – make peace with your Father through confessing your mistakes.
And then rejoice in the restoration of your relationship with Him!