After all is said and done (the final shofar blast) ending Yom Kippur there is still the evening prayers to be recited. It is not a long service but after fasting for 25 hours it is a testament to one’s staying power to not bolt and head for food and drink. Could it be that this mundane, weekday prayer (this year it marked the beginning of a Sunday) rivals the loftiness of the specially crafted prayers for Yom Kippur?
When all is said and done there is a moment or two for reflection. It is the outbreath of life, the closing of a book, the ride home from dropping off someone at the airport. There are many holy sparks to gather at these times if we pause long enough to reflect—before diving into the next thing.
Traveling with twins I have had the experience of deplaning (that is the word for leaving an airplane) last. The cleaning crews are already on board, furiously getting the plane ready for the next flight. Imagine if it was your task to gather all the High Holiday prayer books and place them back in storage. Would you pause to reflect on who held this prayerbook and what emotions were expressed by that person?
The Ba’al Shem Tov has a profound teaching related to the evening prayer we say after Yom Kippur that helps to illuminate the sparks to be found on the outbreath. Included in the weekday evening prayers is the silent prayer called the Amidah—because we stand, or Shmoneh Esrei—because there are 18 benedictions. In this silent prayer one of the benedictions is the following:
“Please forgive us for we have sinned, pardon us for we have transgressed…”
Asks the Ba’al Shem Tov: A person has just finished Yom Kippur. Instead of rushing somewhere she remains to say the evening prayer, what sin or transgression could she possibly be concerned about to include herself in this prayer of “we have sinned?”
Answers the Ba’al Shem Tov: There is the sin of thinking I am not forgiven.
The outbreath teaches us we can begin again. It is the sigh of relief. Life comes back. Love blossoms again. Planes depart again. Classes start again. We pause to say hello. Wish a Happy New Year. Give a hug. Take a moment. Pause on the outbreath and acknowledge—we have traveled and have arrived.