Yom Kippur: The Real You


The Untouchable Secret of Yom Kippur60 days ad email_Chaya

If you look at it you can’t see it. If you touch it you can’t feel it. If you listen to it you can’t hear it. What is it? The realest thing you will ever experience.

What do you consider more real: The tangible or the intangible; the visible or the invisible? Many people would quickly choose the tangible as something closer to reality than the intangible. After all, it can be empirically proven to exist.

Empirically. Hmm. Let’s explore this further.

Did you ever experience something sacred in your life?

You may naturally ask what I mean by “sacred.” In Hebrew sanctity is “kedusha,” which means apartness – apart and special from our usual experiences.

Based on that definition, what was the most sacred experience in your life?

Was it a moment of love? A moment of beholding the awe of nature’s beauty or being moved by a stirring song, the birth of a child or being in the presence of a tzaddik?

All the above are sacred experiences. However this leads us to the next tier: What is the root of all things sacred? What is the “personality” of sanctity?

This leads us into the actual nature of reality.

One of the most powerful lessons in the study of reality comes when Moses asks G-d – in these 40 days preceding Yom Kippur when Moses beseeches G-d for forgiveness – “show me Your Face,” and G-d replies: “No one can see My Face and live.”

G-d taught Moses – and all of us – a vital lesson: Reality exists not because you see it, but because it just is. If you see it, touch it, hear it – it may be your subjective reality, but it’s not necessarily absolute reality. Indeed, if it’s real because you sense it, then it will as real as your senses are. However, if it’s real because it is just real, then it’s reality is boundless.

So back to the initial question: If you look at it you can’t see it. If you touch it you can’t feel it. If you listen to it you can’t hear it. What is it?

Answer: Reality. The truth: The real unadulterated truth of everything – untouchable, invisible and silent.

Not invisible or silent as in non-existent; rather, being so real that it simply cannot be contained in our limited senses.

You see, the more real something is the less expression and definition it has. This may sound counterintuitive, but let’s look at our own selves. Why is it that we have many words to discuss superficial matters like the weather, sports and gossip, but so few words to express our most intimate dimensions? If someone asks you to speak about your inner self you are left silent or with few words. It would seem that we would have many more words to express that which is closest to us than that which is far more external!

Words are containers. And like all containers they have limited parameters. They may be able to express superficial and surface level experiences. But when it comes to a deeper experience, words can be inadequate. We then use the language of metaphor – poetry, art, song, a kiss – whose broader containers can express more intimate experiences. When you travel deeper into the soul, even metaphor is wanting. A cry, a gasp, a laugh, a mere sound may be the only way to express that inner dimension.

The deepest part of your intimate self – the essence of your soul – can only be expressed through utter silence.

“And behold, G-d passed by and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke pieces of rocks, but G-d was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but G-d was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but G-d was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice.” (Kings I 19:11-16)

So paradoxically, the deeper you travel into the recesses of your soul, the less expression you have. The more intimate the experience, the fewer the words. The closer you get to reality, the more intangible the experience.

This is not due to our limited ability to define the intimate. Rather is it due to the very nature of reality: Its depth is simply indefinable. [Compare to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle].

Yom Kippur is the day of the Essence. When we enter the holy of holies and experience ultimate intimacy. What is intimacy? Existence as it is at its bare essence, stripped of all layers.

More than that: At its bare essence we experience things from the inside out instead of from the outside in. Where there no longer is a distinction between subject and object, between verb and noun; where you no longer experience something, because you are the experience.

Therein lies the mystery of sanctity. Sanctity implies that it coexists with its contrast: the profane. Or else there would be nothing unique about sanctity. Hence, the declaration “to separate between the sacred and the profane.”

Regular life is lived on one dimension. Sanctity reveals the reality within.

Yom Kippur – the holiest day of the year – carries the secret of sanctity, of intimacy, of the deepest truth. The power of silence.

Fasting and refraining from material activities on this day (to the extent possible) strip away layers as much as is possible without annihilating our independence or us. This opens the door to our true selves – the supra-sensual self that transcends our senses and our defined experiences.

Yom Kippur is actually a study in reality; a challenge to each of us to define what is real and true in our lives: the food you eat, the shoes you wear, the delights you enjoy, or your inner soul.

Yom Kippur is the birth of the untouchable – the root of all that is truly intimate. Yom Kippur is the birth of intimacy – a day when you can learn the secret of being comfortable with your vulnerability, to get stronger as you get more exposed.

By not partaking in your material activities and opening up your undefined self, you then have the power to infuse the transcendent into in the daily grind of your defined life throughout the entire year.

Time. Space. Man. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, you enter the holiest space in existence and experience the holiest part of yourself.

Take advantage of this awesome opportunity by suspending your senses this Yom Kippur, and allow your true self to emerge. The Real You. Your senses – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell – are only tools to interact with the world around you. You don’t need eyes to see yourself or ears to hear yourself. When you suspend your senses, what emerges is the real you. Then you can bring that reality back into your senses – so that you can actually touch the untouchable.

One day. Just one day we are asked to enter our “holy of holies.” This gives us the power to be real the rest of the year.

So this Yom Kippur open yourself up – and may you experience the REAL YOU.

Be real.

Transform your High Holiday experience starting with Elul through Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah with best-selling 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays.

Learn more about Yom Kippur.




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Shulamit Rothenberg
14 years ago

This wonderful preparation for The Days of Awe have been life-changing for me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have no money for donations, but I can promise that I read everything you write with kavanagh and passion. I do my best to implement what you write and share your wisdom with others, Jewish and non-Jewish.

Pat Grossman
14 years ago

Your bringing the abstract to such an understandable level is a gift.

I am inspired to participate more fully this Yom Kippur and wait in eager anticipation for the holiest of hours to connect with more insight into my soul and G-d.

Steve Lack
14 years ago


Thanks for your wonderful guidance.

Perhaps HaShem simply wants us to TRY to touch the untouchable, the infinite; and to keep trying and to enjoy the bliss that comes with making that effort, the bliss of actually glimpsing a bit of the untouchable. I think that the process is the thing.

After all, if we truly touch the untouchable, see our true face, see His face (same thing), we must die.

You and your Chassidim should have a meaningful Shabbos Shuva and Kippur (and Tzom Kal)and may 5770 see Moshiach together with all of Am Ysroel, bÝerushalayim. All the best, Steve

14 years ago

We suppose that the Real You is some inner beautiful child which only hopes for goodness and harmony, and its expression is a beneficial thing, to the person in particular and mankind in general. But perhaps there are some whose Real You is an animal or a demon, whose expression is more deleterious than beneficial.

richard reiser
14 years ago

Sounds like existentialism on a metaphysical level! Our senses are limited. This has advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage is the the more we perceive, the more background noise we encounter.The less we use our 5 senses, the less distracted we are.So uncharacteristic of human behavior and so difficult. Shabbat Shalom and thanks for all of your wonderful writings. It so often helps put my brain in a better place.

C. Marcus, California
14 years ago

Enjoyed your writing tremendously. What a gift. Thank you.

mossa bildner
14 years ago

Thank you Rabbi, it is always fascinating to hear what you have to say and to search inside for information which resonates. In this case its Ludwig Wittgentstein who wrote That which cannot be said must not be spoken. ( I am paraphrasing here )

14 years ago

Thank you.

Shanti Rachaman
14 years ago

Oh how I love reading this lesson. Thank you Rabbi Jacobson for all you give to us through HaShems power.
I was deeply moved by the quote from the Torah, and by the perfect message contained in your lesson about the uncontainable. Baruch Hashem HaKadosh Boruch Hu.
Todah Radah

Rebecca Lazar
10 years ago

Beautiful article. Thank you for writing such a truthful and thoughtful message. Enjoy a wonderfully sweet year ahead!!

10 years ago

Thank you Rabbi,
I love, and always enjoy, the easy, and loving, way you explain things.

I wish you could re-write the bible in your words. Please dont misinterpret what I say. I love our Bible, your vocabulary, and commentary, make it much easier to digest, almost like osmosis. You make all so clear, and reasonable.

I dont know this naturally, but I suspect you are a psychologist, or have studied, the art fervently.

Thank you again.

10 years ago


Read this today, after Yom Kippur, the feeling during Neila couldnt be better described in words…thanks Rabbi! Yishar Coach!

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