For most people Yom Kippur and its
restrictions of no work, no food or drink and no cell phone is a cause of hardship. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, for affliction is essential to building character.
Jews of course know suffering better than most. Yet through all the formidable threats to destroy us, our people remain, and if anything, our afflictions have served to make us stronger and more resilient preparing us to face the next crisis. Every period of persecution has led our people to greater glory: Egyptian slavery was followed by our liberation, the giving of the Torah and our entrance to the Land of Israel; the destruction of the Temple ushered in our wonderful Messiah; even the horrors of a Holocaust were followed by the creation of the State of Israel and the in-gathering of the exiles to our Promised Land.
This week a poll was published showing that almost 90% of Israelis are satisfied with their lives, among the happiest people on earth. This counter-intuitive statistic is staggering given the constant threats to our safety and security - not to mention the corruption, traffic congestion and high cost of living that we cope with daily. It suggests that the secret to satisfaction is directly connected to how we face adversities. Afflictions challenge us - and make the most of us. When we succeed in getting through hard times it builds our confidence, hope and trust that we will be all right no matter what - that somehow God has helped us through - and we feel good about ourselves.
Our brief deprivation during Yom Kippur helps shape and energize our
spiritual lives, and molds our moral character. When we are hungry, we can appreciate those who suffer on a regular basis from starvation. When our eyes fill with tears because of the sins we have committed, our vision is sharpened to see more clearly the need to improve ourselves, comfort those around us, and reach out to our suffering world.
This day will go by Fast - pun intended - but its hard-earned lessons stay with us well into the New Year.