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    Such a long day

    Yom Kippur is long and intense, made even more so by the old custom which some people still follow of staying up at night to read the psalms.

    The compilers of the Yom Kippur prayer book must have deliberately written and inserted an array of piyyutim – religious poems – that ensured that the day would be long and challenging.

    Somehow it reminds us of the fifth of the Ten Commandments, which takes it for granted that long days are good for us. The commandment tells us to honour our parents “so your days will be long upon the land”. Some say that this is a promise of long life, having many days and years and aspiring to Moses’ age of 120.

    But the Hebrew of the Ten Commandments does not say that our lives will be extended, though that is certainly a blessing (and that is what the second paragraph of the Shema says in D’varim 11:21). It says that our days will be long days, days that will never be long enough to fit in all that we need to do.

    What then should we do with the long hours of Yom Kippur?

    Think, daydream, self-introspect, daven. Ask ourselves questions – are we good to others, are we good to God, are we good to our Jewishness, good to ourselves?

    The answers will sometimes be no, in which case we need to decide on improvement.

    Sometimes they will be yes, which means that we can humbly pat ourselves on the back, though there is always room to grow.

    Sometimes the Heavenly tussle about each human being will see the prosecutor prevail, sometimes it will be the defence counsel. Wherever we are on Yom Kippur we can zoom in and imagine we are watching and listening to it all.

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