Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement
My first faith community assumed that, though they were not Jews, they could learn from the spiritual wisdom of the Hebrew Day of Atonement. For orthodox adherents, the Day of Atonement is more than 25 hours of abstinence from food, drink, baths, leather footwear, sexual expression, and other items that represent physical need or luxury. Adherents also seek to restore the relationships they have with other people: Yom Kippur is a time of reflection, apology, and course correction. Perhaps most of all, it is a time in which believers are especially aware of being intimately known by God: “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before God” (Leviticus 16:30).
At the end of their pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, Muslims observe Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. The festival commemorates the challenging story about Abraham and Ishmael (not Isaac in this version of the tale). In this story, Abraham is willing to sacrifice his beloved son and Ishmael is willing to accept his father’s spiritual conviction to the point of submission—an extraordinary instance of trust. And their willingness completes the command.
I recently learned that the Kaaba, the cube-like building that Muslims walk and pray around in Mecca, marks the traditional site where Hagar found a well of water in the desert for herself and for the son she had with Abraham. All these centuries after these stories were first told, believers still journey to the site of that well and draw sustenance for the dry places of their own lives.
The Autumnal Equinox
The equinox, the result of the 23.5° tilt in Earth’s axis, is the specific moment when the Sun passes over the equator. Days are shortening, and we’re precisely on the threshold of light and shadow. The equinox is a turning place, a readying place. A new life chapter is ahead, and we have this moment to prepare for it.
Where in your life do you need to turn a corner? Which aspects and experiences do you need to release in order to move forward? As the energy of summer recedes and we open to the resting energy of winter, what other binaries might you acknowledge, engage, and reconcile? Take a few moments in your meditation tonight and over the next few days to honor and release whatever you might need to bring to completion. Remember with love and not regret, and let’s turn this corner together.
On Wednesday, we opened the Unity of Gaithersburg labyrinth to all who came: all of us who needed some quiet time to acknowledge the turning of the Earth, the beginning of the fall season, and the continuing transformation of our lives prayed, meditated, and walked together.
Many thanks to Jim McGalliard and Joe and Peggy Gentile for providing leadership and meditative music during this time.