Skip Navigation

Drawing Closer to God and to One Another

October 6, 2016

Dear Friend of Israel

Next Tuesday at sundown the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur begins. This day, which is also known as the Day of Atonement and marks the end of the High Holy Days, is the time when Jews believe God "seals" the judgment on each individual for the year to come.

Our main task during the High Holy Days is to identify our sins and ask God and our fellow man for forgiveness. Of course, God's forgiveness is available all year long, but in some ways Yom Kippur is like Mother's Day or Father's Day. While we are to show respect to our parents every day of the year, we pause on these particular days to focus on it, to remember why we show them respect, and to correct ourselves if we haven't been doing it properly.

In Judaism, repentance consists of two things: a change of heart and a change of action. True repentance requires our commitment and resolve, but it also has to manifest itself in action. Psalm 34:14 makes this clear: "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." Changing our life patterns is a twofold motion – turning from bad toward good. When we engage in these two actions, we are shaped for the better and honor God.

Repentance not only puts us on the right path, it brings us to a fuller understanding of the nature of God. It puts us in a posture of humility and reminds us that we worship a holy God who demands our holiness. When we fall short of that standard, we must repent.

In that process of asking for forgiveness, we are reminded that our God is just and righteous. But in receiving His forgiveness, we are reminded that God is also merciful and loving. Ezekiel 33:11 assures us that God desires our repentance: "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live." And Psalm 103:13 tells us, "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him." Thus God not only offers us mercy, but eagerly desires that we take him up on this amazing gift.

When we keep both sides of God's nature in view – His justice and His mercy – we come to a more accurate understanding of who He is. Yom Kippur invites us to reflect on these ideas, see ourselves for the sinful people we are, and then to bridge that gap through the act of repentance. Then we are free to move forward from the High Holy Days cleansed, shaped, renewed, and all the more grateful for our lives and confident in God's love and forgiveness for us. May this holy season be a time for all of us to draw closer to God… and to one another.

With grief, gratitude, and prayers for shalom, peace,


Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

Billy Graham

He Showed His Faith to the World

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Billy Graham, an extraordinary Christian man whose voice of morality and reconciliation touched so many people for the better.

Read More

IDF soldiers pray at Western Wall

Troubled Times – and Timeless Wisdom

Although the threat of war is a daily reality for Israel, the Jewish state remains a “light unto the nations.” And as she continues her ongoing pursuit of peace and security, let us all turn to the timeless wisdom of the...

Read More

Flag-draped supporters of Israel in Washington, DC

Raising Our Faithful Voices

The case of a current candidate for public office – whose anti-Semitic, racist, and conspiratorial views were long ago rejected by decent people – reminds us, as people of faith, that we must be ever vigilant against the rise of...

Read More