If you would have asked me what words come to mind when I think about Yom Kippur, the word joy would never have made the top ten list.
Words like fasting, repenting, remorse, prayer, sorrow, self-blame, and even hunger would have been there, but never joy or happiness.
Why was this year different for me?
Perhaps in my own home, the solitude created the ripe environment for a deeper experience and I soaked it all in.
In this year of corona, I almost desperately needed to focus more intensely on my relationship to HaShem without distraction. I poured my heart out without wondering what others were thinking and for me, it was a unique type of grace that was afforded me.
I could daven (pray), as fervently as I wanted, with movements, chanting and song, being at one with the rhythm of my supplications. I didn’t have to worry if my voice was too loud or off-key.
And then there it was. A sense of elation filled me up just before and during Neilah, (the closing prayer of Yom Kippur) and this experience was new. My feeling of joy was palpable.
For the first time I grasped emotionally what some sages refer to as a state of purity after being cleansed of sins.
I had a clean slate, and all the ways in which I came up short last year were magically wiped away. My struggles in trying to be a better person, often ending in disappointment in myself, were in the past.
Those struggles are not going away, and the challenges might even be greater for me in the coming year, but I have a new beginning. I am refreshed and feel stronger to wrestle again. I can be the director of a new script, and this time the outcome can change.
Like being subjected to a heavenly sanitizing spray and really good wipes, my soul would be sparkly and new.
More importantly, I would be able to forgive myself since God has hopefully, forgiven me.
While of course, my deepest desire is that we reconvene as community, I am grateful this experience of isolation gave me a new vision of Yom Kippur.