Some Ideas to Make the Upcoming Yom Kippur Service More Meaningful by Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Take pleasure! You made an important decision to attend. Don’t regret it.

You are not there to be entertained. You are there to accomplish something on a spiritual level – to come closer to the Almighty, to introspect, to set yourself on a better path in life.

Don’t blame the service or the rabbi or the prayerbook. If you want to you can prepare in advance – read the machzor (the special prayerbook for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) to understand the ideas and the words. Make a list of what deeds or behaviors you regret, would like to correct and would like the Almighty to forgive.

The mind seems to have 2 tracks – a person can talk and think about what he wants to say next; he can read and think about something else; he can pray and think about a million other things. When reading a silent prayer, concentrate on what you’re reading. When listening to the chazan (the person leading the service) focus on a spiritual thought -“Almighty, I love You.” “Almighty forgive me.” “Almighty help me.” It prevents thinking about the score of the game, bills due, repairs needed at home. Most people will not understand the Hebrew liturgy being chanted. However, even if the mind can’t understand it, the heart and soul can take nourishment from the words, the tune, the atmosphere. Relax and listen to the essence.

Make the best use of your time. Look at the commentary on the prayers. Bring something about Yom Kippur to read. And if you are really suffering, then just ask, “Almighty, please accept all of my suffering for being in synagogue as an atonement for my transgressions.”

Many people complain each year, “How can my synagogue charge so much for tickets for High Holiday services? It’s a sin to have to pay to pray!” Actually, you don’t have to pay to pray; you can stay home and pray. Unfortunately, only 25% of all Jews in the USA belong to anything Jewish -and possibly most belong to Jewish Community Centers. This means that for the synagogue to stay solvent all year for the “twice a year” Jew to attend, they have get support where and when they can.

I believe that people were paying a lot more for tickets to the Olympic games than most synagogues charge for High Holiday tickets – and the people were glad to be able to get tickets. Believe me, you will get more out of synagogue on Yom Kippur than watching people run around a track!


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