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  • Perspective: Reaching my own personal Yom Kippur

    by Yasmin O.

    Yom_Kippur-240x180Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish Calendar. It follows ten days after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year — according to the Sages, the day that God writes in his holy books what the coming year is going to look like for each and every person.

    In the ten days following Rosh Hashanah, called Yamim Noraim, it is believed that God opens the channels to the sky directly to allow any prayers and requests to go through his gates of Heaven. In these ten days, Jewish people all around the world pray and ask for forgiveness and plead with God to “change His mind” if He wrote anything bad in his books for the coming year.

    Yom Kippur is believed to be the day that God signs his books and the decisions for the upcoming year have been made. After Yom Kippur, the coming year’s events have been decided by God — for better or worse. It is believed that a prayer on Yom Kippur, a day for self-exploration, is the most important prayer of them all.

    The connection between Yom Kippur and recovery is of course the prayer. After all, we learn that every day in recovery is a day for self-exploration, every day is a day to turn our will to our Higher Power and every day is a day to ask for forgiveness.

    During Yamim Noraim we are expected to look at the year that has passed and make a list of all of our wrongdoings before asking for God’s forgiveness of those sins. The custom is that you need to first ask forgiveness from God before you can ask forgiveness from others — just like in the 12 Steps! Around Yom Kippur is when Jewish people around the world start making their amends to others.

    Growing up in a Jewish Orthodox home back in Israel, the holiest place of them all, I felt resentment towards Yom Kippur. I used to think that Yom Kippur was when I was being judged by God for all my wrongdoings during my active addiction — the theft, the lies, the using, cheating, manipulating, broken promises and everything horrible that my addiction caused me to do. I used to think, can it really be that easy? Fast for 24 hours, go to synagogue, say my prayers and ask forgiveness and with a whip of a wand it’ll all go away? Is there really nothing more to it? Surely it can’t be that easy! How difficult would it be to go up to those so many people that I’ve hurt and say the words “I’m sorry”?

    It was only when I found this wonderful program that I realized that yes, it is possible! That yes, it wasn’t me who was doing all these horrible things, it was my disease who took control over my actions, my thoughts and everything that it is me. Slowly I discovered that yes — I can be forgiven! and yes — the sins can be put to rest and yes — there is a better way of life.

    Yom Kippur has been very significant in my road to recovery. In Steps 1 through 3, I turned my will over to God and asked Him to accept me as I am and help to rebuild my personality. I slowly made a soul-searching inventory when I reached Step 4, confessed them to God and another person in Step 5 and worked my way into Steps 6 and 7, where I did exactly what one would do on Yom Kippur — acceptance and forgiveness. Then I was finally ready to make my amends. I made a list of all the people I’d hurt in Step 8 and asked them all to forgive me in Step 9. Finally, I was clean. Finally, I’ve reached my own personal Yom Kippur.

    One of the biggest traditions of Yom Kippur is to wear white, the colour of purity, and go to a natural source of water and dip your feet in it. The purpose of doing so is to “let go” of all the sins and be pure and ready to accept the New Year with all of its blessings and fresh beginnings.

    On this Yom Kippur, I will be reminded of my past sins, those during my addiction and those of my recovery. I will yet again turn my will to Him and pray and ask for another clean year in recovery and another chance of life. I will dip my feet into the pure water and ask to let go of my sins from the past year and pray for a fresh start for the year to come.

    I wish you all to reach your Yom Kippur when you are ready to do so, I wish you all to be able to reach to that place of purity in your souls and most of all, I wish you all to be honest with yourself on your road to recovery which is an everlasting journey.

    About the Authors

    Renascent Alumni
    Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email alumni@renascent.ca.