The road to the New Jerusalem lies before us, always long and difficult, but with such a sought-after destination at the end. No amount of striving and desire could ever be too much for such a destination. No amount of striving could be sufficient to get us there. But God, the ever-merciful, does not leave us to our own strivings but empowers us along the way a thousand times a thousand times.
Yom Kippur is a day for encountering God. Satan in Hebrew has the numerical value of 364, which some rabbis have said indicates that God allows Satan to accuse us 364 of the 365 days of the year. Today is the day when, in Temple days of old, God ordained that Israel’s unrequited sins be cleansed and purged. For all the Israel of God, from Israel and the nations, today remains the day of his mercy in judgment.
There are many reasons in our modern world not to take Yom Kippur seriously. The modern spirit urges us not to believe in traditions and dates and ancient stories of divine oversight. The postmodern spirit urges us to believe all spiritualities are the same and disdain particularistic traditions like Yom Kippur. The popular religious spirit urges us to believe forgiveness is easy and cheaply received so that chest-beating and uttering confessions with the lips are passe.
But God says of this day, “On this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord” (Lev 16:30).