Yom Kippur may just be the most difficult holiday. It’s a holiday of transcendence. It’s for letting go of the past and moving toward the future a slightly better person. It’s about asking for forgiveness from G-d, from others, and most importantly from oneself. But this year I felt nothing, and it made me question my faith. Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. Or maybe it’s that I didn’t understand the Hebrew. But I don’t think that was it.
In a book I just read entirely not related to Judaism or religion, there was a quote referencing the Buddhist thought that there are six billion doors to heaven and we each have our own. I thought that was profound, and beautiful. And not at all antithetical to Judaism – but so poignant and so accessible that how can one not find G-d through Buddhism? It feels that in most religions, if you want G-d, there is personal guidance to meet Him. In Judaism, I find it to be a constant struggle. We don’t have Zen books of wisdom, or priests who bring us personally to G-d’s presence… we have a book and teachers who tell us to find Him our self. This Yom Kippur, I could not find Him. Where was He?
But something interesting did happen. While I was so wrapped up in attempting Jewish prayer and praying for the Jewish people, I found my mind drifting toward the girls trafficked around the world – something I’ve been reading a lot about lately. I felt myself in tears, talking to G-d, asking what I can do. I realized institutional prayers or staying within a religious community was never the reason I decided to be a Jew. The reason was to better myself and to repair the world in the way I knew how. I came away from high holidays with a different kind of religion – one devoted to my individual door in Heaven.
Since those prayers, I was given the opportunity to preview Nicholas Kristof’s new film Reporter about his trip to the Congo where he sat on a panel afterward and discussed trafficking as being the worst crime in today’s world, was gifted his book “Half the Sky” and was introduced to two amazing charities that work on trafficking issues which I am now getting involved with: The Blind Project (www.Theblindproject.com) and Not For Sale(www.notforsalecampaign.org).
I heard a rabbi once say, How do you know when you are doing what is meant for you? It’s when you pray for something and G-d actually gives it to you. I believe that to be true. Religion is not something which should force our words, but should force us to find our own words. I believe that praying on one’s own terms is a way to bring us closer to ourselves, and ultimately to G-d.
Since high holidays I found myself in a new place in my spiritual journey, one that is more freeing and true to who I am. I’m wondering how others feel while they’re looking for G-d. Do you think religion is a universal, communal or personal truth? And does one need religion to become close to G-d. Feel free to start a conversation by commenting below or if you have a question/topic you’d like me to talk about, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.