Yom Kippur Joy

By Deborah Sacks Mintz

In my years working as a Jewish educator, I’ve often posed the following question to my students: What is your favorite Jewish holiday? This question has been met with a myriad of answers, ranging from the expected (Hanukkah, because of the presents!) to the amusing: (Tisha Be’av, because it’s the only day at camp that I don’t have to go in the lake.)

My answer to this same question: Yom Kippur.

This may seem contradictory to the way we so often understand the experience of joy and celebration. After all, on Yom Kippur we do away with all the trappings of a simha. We trade in our beautiful holiday clothes for simple white, removing the makeup from our faces and the leather from our feet. We forgo the festive meals and l’chaims for a full day of sitting in shul, denying ourselves our basic needs of food and water.

And yet, we know that this spiritual work culminates in an opportunity to reimagine the best version of ourselves that we can be. For me, it isn’t just about being in shul all day, it’s about the spiritual transformation that is possible during that all-encompassing experience. And when the gates close and the final shofar blast rings out at the end of Ne’ilah, I know that I have been given a second chance. And really, is there any greater joy than that?  

About Deborah Sacks Mintz

Deborah Sacks Mintz is a member of the BJ Prayer Team and a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband,
Cantor David Mintz, and son, Nadav.