Thinking about Yom Kippur

The Jewish Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, began last night and goes through the whole day until this evening, when the observant will break the fast that marks this holiest of days in that tradition.

I am not Jewish, and I am not writing here about the religious aspects of this holiday.  Rather, this morning I woke up thinking about the meaning of Yom Kippur and atonement and forgiveness.

Not knowing a whole lot about the Day of Atonement, I decided to do a little internet research to see what symbolism is associated with it.  The number 5 seemed to be important to Yom Kippur (if I can trust the information I found online):

  • There are 5 prayer services on this day.
  • In the section of the Torah that addresses Yom Kippur, the word soul appears 5 times.
  • “Soul” is known by 5 different names (soul, wind, spirit, living one, unique one) in the Torah.

In numerology, the number five is a restless sort of number.  It represents selfishness and a lack of discipline as well as change and constant motion.

Hmmmm. . . . Does restlessness lead to self-examination?  Or do the undisciplined use constant motion as a way to AVOID reflection?  I’m curious about this connection of Five Energy and the Day of Atonement.  I know for  me, I do often use movement as a sort of meditation.  If I am stuck on a personal issue, I will go for a walk or run; it will usually clear my head and lead to resolution.

Do you have any reflective practices?  Do you reflect at all?  What traditions do you follow for atonement or adjustment of your behavior?  I would love to hear your thoughts!


4 responses

  1. Great topic. I am not Jewish also but it is interesting to examine other faiths important days or holidays and see how they relate to our lives. You brought up alot of words , soul, the number five,atonment and forgivness are all of the words of faith. Well ,we all need forgivness inorder to move forward. If we don’t it just holds us back. The atonment is God giving us forgivnes and love, that is what it means to me. I totally agree with you about movment, If I have personal or emotionally painful stuff to deal with, I usually work out and work physically hard until I can bring myself to deal with it. Thank you.

    • I’ve always been fascinated by the connections and commonalities of religions and philosophies. I think it just shows that we humans do have the “collective unconscious” that Carl Jung wrote about. Thank you (again) for your thoughtful comments, Susan!

  2. What an interesting discussion, I’ve never associated the # 5 with Judaism–we have a lot of 8s associated with many of the holidays. The association of “selfishness” though is not consistent with this time of year for Jews though as it is actually quite the opposite. The time between Rosh Hoshana (10 days) our new year and Yom Kippur is a time of internal reflection, a time to reach out to those in our lives who we have wronged or who have wronged us and find peace with one another. It is a time to reflect on the last year and set our goals and hopes for the next one. We fast on Yom Kippur to create a pure and clean space within ourselves and more importantly within our community. Judaism is a faith and culture that encourages questioning and in most aspects embraces change.

    “Selfishness” doesn’t feel like it fits here most simply because Judaism while it encourages a lot of self reflection is at its core about community and family (biological and chosen).

    • Thanks for the added insights, Rachel! I have learned that with any symbolism, we are meant to look at both sides of the coin. So I am interpreting it to mean that we are to look at “have I been selfish?” and “how can I be less so?”

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