You Say You Want a Revelation

You say you want a revolution 

Well, you know 

We all want to change the world 

You tell me that it's evolution 

Well, you know 

We all want to change the world 

But when you talk about destruction 

Don't you know that you can count me out 

Don't you know it's gonna be all right 

–The Beatles, from "Revolution"

Yom Kippur begins tonight at sundown with the Kol Nidre ("all vows") service, and ends tomorrow night with the Ne'ilah service. It is said that the Divine Gates are opened on Rosh Hashanah, and close when Ne'ilah is completed. Ne'ilah means the closing and locking of the gates. This metaphorical doorway is often referred to as the gates of heaven, gates of righteousness, or the gates of repentance. 

It's a little bit like taking the express train to the Divine. 

It is hard to write about the observance of Yom Kippur without it sounding punitive and antiquated. Yom Kippur is a day of fasting, of abstaining from any of the creature comforts of daily living. No make up, no bathing, no eating or drinking or sex, no wearing of leather or adornments of any kind. Many people dress in all white (reminiscent of angels) on Yom Kippur, and more observant Jews wear a kittel, a traditional white tunic that signifies purity, holiness and renewal. 

The spiritual practice of Yom Kippur is one of collective letting go: of transgressions, of ego, of food, of secrecy. It does not matter if you are asking forgiveness because you forgot your mother's birthday, or because you lied to someone, or because you stole a cookie from Starbucks while you were waiting for your latte. There is no hierarchy of sins on Yom Kippur. 

We speak these aloud as a community, and we release all vows, all obligations, anything that tethers us to our egos and interferes with complete forgiveness and revelation.

Although the theme of revelation is most closely associated with the holiday of Shavuot, there are also strands of revelation woven through the fabric of Yom Kippur.  And isn't the final Shofar blowing on Ne'ilah a revelation of sorts, a spiritual waking up at the end of a rigorous day of prayer and fasting? 

Revelation: the act of revealing or dislosure; the manifestation of divine will or truth.

Time to change

Time to rearrange

Time to open up

The gates are open

Are you gonna walk through?

We're in the midst of a revelation!

–from the Chochmat HaLev Shabbat morning prayer book, page 4

Revelation is not something I can create, or schedule, or order in advance. Revelation is a gift, sometimes unexpected, always full of grace. Sometimes revelation turns my world upside down; other times it is gentle and nuanced. 

One of the final prayers of Ne'ilah is called Ha'Yom, which means today. It is a prayer of hope and revelation. 

The HaYom/Today is the crowning prayer of the High Holy Days liturgy. Its power stems not only from its fresh and energetic sense of hope and from its beautiful music; it comes also from the powerful awareness that what matters is Today, the powerful commitment of this moment. The challenge of the High Holy Days is in part to remember that when tomorrow comes, it too will be Today. The hope of this moment, every moment, lies in the knowledge that when tomorrow comes it will be Today. If we live in the possibility of this moment, Today is more than enough. 

–David A. Teutsch, from the Kol HaNeshamah prayerbook, p. 1221

How do I open myself to revelation? Pay attention, listen well, let go of assumptions and judgment and fear, and keep the gates of my own heart open.