Cracking our hearts open... Four Yom Kippur Meditations

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.
— John O'Donohue

The Zohar* tells us that just before Rosh Hashanah, the moon gets dangerously shrouded, like a jewel encased in stone. It is our task to break open the layers covering her to free this celestial jewel to shine her light on the world. For without her light, the world cannot survive.

To me, this is "code" for the inner work each of us must do to crack the hardened layers that have grown up around our hearts—that celestial jewel that lives inside each of us. These layers are the residue of a crazy year, and all the ways we have coped—getting numb, anxious, angry, or hopeless. Our work, the Zohar says, is to liberate the inner lantern of our clear knowing, so it can shine freely again and guide our way through the morass we are in.

We are living in breathtaking times! The boundary of human dignity and moral decency keeps receding. It is truly hard not to feel confused or even paralyzed. How would our wise ancestors guide us now? They too lived in breathtakingly difficult times. We can unconsciously activate their traumas, falling into despair. Or we can choose to call upon their wisdom, strength, and guidance. 

One thing I know: This is a time to come together! With others—in prayer, song, and celebration. Or simply with ourselves—in nature, meditation, art. And with those who came before us, tapping their wisdom. In whatever way is yours, let's use this magical season to break through our hardened layers, and find our way back to the beauty of our hearts—and the heart of this beautiful world.

Vidui: Four Yom Kippur Meditations

The following meditations derive from a Zohar passage* that describes the new moon of Tishrei at Rosh Hashana as eclipsed by dark forces. Speaking of the moon as a precious gem, the Zohar hints at our High Holiday work: to diffuse the layers that have developed around the jewel of our own being (and thereby, that of the world.) We might imagine our souls as diamonds or other luminous stones that have gotten grimy through exposure to life, our brilliance diminished. Our work is to dissolve the layers of grit and liberate our original radiance with the solvent of honest attention, self-compassion, and laser focus.

God's invitation to Abram from Genesis 12 may be used as a springboard for your reflections:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָֹה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶךָּ

Lech Lecha may-Artzecha u-miMoladetecha u-miBeyt Avicha el ha’aretz asher ar-echa.

Go forth unto yourself, from your land, from your birthplace, from your father's house, to the land that I will show you.

First Meditation

לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ Lech Lecha May-Artzecha: Go forth from your land
Go forth unto yourself/for yourself from your ERETZ: Many interpreters take this to mean: Abram's/our earthly, earthbound nature that keeps us from dense or dull.

Q: What physical habits, cravings, or behavior patterns keep me from being my most radiant, alive, quick-witted, and exuberant self?

Second Meditation

Go forth!...Mi-Moladetecha ָ֖מִמּוֹלַדְתְך: From the place of Y/our Birth. Some say this is the Legacy of the Mother.

Q: What limiting legacies and minimizing messages do I carry from 'Mother?' (This might be your actual biological mother and her lineage, or the cultural messages about the feminine side of life that undermine, keep you thinking, feeling, or acting in ways that are less than your most potent, radiant self.)

Third Meditation

Go Forth... MiBeyt Avikha: מִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךוּ From your Father's house. Some say this is the Legacy of the Father.

Q: What limiting legacies and minimizing messages do I carry from 'Father?' (This might be your biological father and his lineage, or the onerous cultural demands and directives that you have internalized that keep you thinking, feeling, or acting in ways that are less than your most potent, radiant self.)

Fourth Meditation

Go Forth...El haAretz asher Arekha: ָךֶּאֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְא To the Land that I will Show You. Some say that this is the place of our greatest fulfillment, self- expression, and spiritual radiance as souls upon this earth.

Q: What might I look like if I were to be as fully alive, shining, and potent as I was created to be? Is any part of me holding back, waiting to be expressed? What fear, noise, or other obstacle keeps me from stepping into my full self, my god-given legacy of being "powerful beyond measure?"

*This teaching comes from the Zohar, a 13th century mystical text, Parshat Tetzaveh, Vol.II 184a-b, Pritzker Edition, translated by Daniel Matt.

Wishing us all renewal and vitality in this new season!
Looking forward to connecting with you online or in person soon...

Tirzah Firestone