They call it a day spa for a reason. You are encouraged to take a day off, and immerse yourself in the luxurious environment of the spa. Switch off your mobile phone; leave your Blackberry at the door – communication with the outside world is discouraged. There are no TVs displaying 24-hour news channels, or internet display panels on the walls – the things that constantly bombard us with what is happening in the world are noticeably absent.
At the day spa, you spend some quality time looking after yourself. A massage or a facial will gently rub away the stress in your life. An exfoliation will scrape away the invisible filth that has attached itself to your skin, and then a wrap will aid detoxification. The sauna or steam room might have a similar effect, shvitzing the toxins out of your body.
Afterwards, you come away feeling cleansed in a very different way. The treatments themselves are doubly effective because of the environment of escape, albeit temporary, from the worries of the world. While lying there and relaxing, you know full well than in a few hours it will be over, and you will be forced back to the grind, but for now, it is possible to live the moment.
Yom Kippur is a day spa for the soul.
No phone. No food or drink. Sneakers that look quite weird with a suit, but everyone else is wearing the same, so it doesn’t matter.
The service in shul is long and intense. Themes of life and death are everywhere we look. Avinu Malkeinu – our father, our King (five times). Al Chet – confession for our sins (ten times, according to some customs).
For twenty five hours, we leave the world and spend some quality time on our soul.
At the end of it all, as we all call out the verse Shema Yisrael together at the climax of the Neila service, we might feel very mortal, thinking of those who died with those words, and intensely spiritual, particularly connected to God, all at once.
In our shul, before the blowing of the shofar, we all dance to the tune of Napoleon’s March. It’s a victory march; an elated celebration of God’s forgiveness; a bridge between the spiritual immersion of Yom Kippur, and the real world we must come back to. By then, we are barely hungry for food, rather spiritually satiated.
The article originally appeared on Galus Australis, and the article image is taken from there.