One of the most powerful moments of communal prayer during the Jewish year is when we gather together for the Kol Nidre service on the night of Yom Kippur. Jews, notoriously known for showing up late for services, scramble to get to Shul on time to hear the soul touching Kol Nidre melody.
For a moment I want to draw attention to what the Shaliach Tzibbur (prayer leader) says right before Kol Nidre.
עַל דַּעַת הַמָּקוֹם וְעַל דַּעַת הַקָּהָל בִּישִׁיבָה שֶׁל מַעְלָה וּבִישִׁיבָה שֶׁל מַטָּה אָנוּ מַתִּירִין
לְהִתְפַּלֵּל עִם הָעֲבַרְיָנִים:
With the consent of HaMakom (G-d’s name literally meaning The Place) and with consent of the community, in the Supernal Yeshiva and the Terrestrial Yeshiva we give permission to pray with the transgressors.
In essence we are all transgressors - we all have those places in our lives where we clearly missed the mark- it’s part of our humanity. Part of Yom Kippur is about looking at those dark corners of our lives that we really prefer were not there and to seek rectification and forgiveness.
Sometimes this gets really tricky - often it happens that when we are in our places of deepest challenge we want to hide from others - literally, we don’t want others to see us.
However, this one line that starts off our holiest day of the year is telling us the opposite is true - it’s telling us, you have permission to pray together - because you are definitely not alone.
Whatever problem you are dealing with (whether it’s a bad choice you made, some words you wish you could take back or a health issue that’s beyond your control), right now there are millions of other people dealing with the same exact thing. Maybe even billions.
I want to offer you a simple practice that I learned from Pema Chodron that can help you tap into the deep healing that comes from being connected to other humans whether they are sitting right next to you or on the other side of the world. It’s called Just like me and here’s how it works: (For those of you who engage in formal prayer on Yom Kippur the Vidui or confessional service is a perfect time to do this!)
First, let yourself get clear on the challenge you are working with. I’ll use saying some words you wish you could take back as an example because it’s something almost all of us deal with from time to time.
I close my eyes, put my hand on my heart and say: Just like me, there are millions of people around the world who said something they wish they could take back.
Or: Just like me there are millions of parents around the world who were not patient with their children today.
As I say that, I let myself feel tenderness in my heart for the human condition. I send out my love and compassion to the millions of people around the world that need it. And as I send it out, my level of love, compassion and forgiveness for myself also swells.
This is not about letting ourselves off the hook for poor behaviour but about having tenderness for the human condition which allows us to soften, deepen our connections to each other and find healing.
There’s a lot of pain and suffering in the world. Let’s dedicate ourselves to making our little corners of the world a little bit better - We can start with bad neighborhoods in our own minds.
Because if we don’t do it, who will?