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Two birds soaring in a bright blue sky with clouds and sunshine in the background

Life and death I have set before you, the blessing and the curse. And so choose life so that you and your seed may live! -- Deuteronomy 30:19

It’s both wonderful and deep that on Yom Kippur, the section of the Torah read in many Reform congregations commands us to choose life.

The first time I read the long confessional prayers for Yom Kippur recited by Sephardi (Jews from the Iberian Peninsula), with 20-plus sins for every letter of the alphabet, two confessions under the Hebrew letter bet...

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Woman playing the cello

For most North American Jews, Kol Nidrei surely is the single piece of liturgy that best represents Yom Kippur. This haunting melody, often played by a cellist then chanted by the cantor and choir in front of the open ark, causes all who are present to delve deeply into their heart and soul, looking for forgiveness. Indeed, the Kol Nidrei liturgy has become so intensely associated with Yom Kippur that the service itself is known throughout our Reform community as “Kol Nidrei.”

The phrase Kol Nidrei...

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Four pairs of hands forming the outline of a heart

We stood in reverence of the Torah, as if she were a trusted friend. We gazed at her with loving eyes as if she were a long lost lover.

We extended kisses to her as if she were our only true love. As long as there is Torah, we shall find our path to being holy.

We found safety in one another's arms, a space to cry tears of mourning, as our singing returned them to tears of joy, and we found the strength to forgive those who had done us harm.

We touched the brokenness of our hearts, and then sang them back together again. As long as there is kindness, we shall heal...

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Overhead shot of a person sitting cross-legged on the floor holding a bowl of granola, seeds, and fruit

Last fall, I took my now-husband to High Holiday services for the first time. When Yom Kippur arrived, he, like many Jews, found a way to forgive himself for his past mistakes.

The Day of Atonement gave him an opportunity to practice t’shuvah (repentance), to become the better person he strove to be. My husband not only found the whole experience transformative, but observing Yom Kippur inspired him to start his conversion to Judaism.

As I witnessed my husband’s experience, it hit me that I...

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Silhouette of a man spinning inside a shining vortex as if otherworldly

During these the Days of Awe between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, I cannot help but bring to mind those ancient words, “Who shall live and who shall die, who shall reach the ripeness of age…” We Jews are in the midst of the season of fate.

This year, I’ve watched myself descend swiftly and unexpectedly into a depressive episode, nearly unable to stop the increasing spiral into a black mood. From inside my depression, I can see that my...

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