Yom Kippur Is Over…Now What?


I hate Yom Kippur. Not for the fasting (it’s not fun, but it’s not that hard either), and not for the confession of sins. I can even handle the theological gymnastics of “who shall live and who shall die”.

What I don’t like about Yom Kippur is the aftermath.

We make our Jew Years Resolutions. We tap our hearts. We feel bad about who we are and what we have done. And then we go back to being the same people we were before. Frankly, not much changes between the remorseful Neila and screaming at your kids because you just want a bagel and the oneg line is a million miles long and you said you were going to go Paleo anyway.

Yom Kippur gives us the tools to feel sorry, but it doesn’t give us the tools to do anything with our newfound outlook on life.

So here’s my thoughts on how to correct this.

Don’t Make Resolutions

You can’t live up to them. It’s scientifically impossible. 88% of these kinds of oaths to God fail.

Instead, make habits.

If you want to be a better husband, don’t decide that you are going to cut your hours back at work and run the carpool for your kids school and start cooking dinner every night.

An easier and more practical idea is lighting Shabbat candles. It takes two minutes. But if you can get in the habit of lighting candles with your wife once a week, then you can slowly build up to whatever you want.

Ask For Help

The hardest phrase in the English language is “can you help me?” We’re socialized into believing that help is for losers and people who can’t get their act together.

Instead of trying to be a little island, form a Helping Club, or what some people call a Time Bank.

The idea is pretty simple: you set up an organized group of people who help each other, based on each other’s skill sets. Have a friend that’s a doctor? See if she will see patients for 10-15 minutes in return for having your cousin look at her car. Someone needs their child’s bedroom painted? Trade painting time for a few hours of GRE tutoring…or whatever you need.

Sure, in theory you help your friends and family when they need you, but you can always flake out at any time. There’s no social responsibility in that way of assisting others. In a formal system like a Time Bank, you’re locked into helping. But the reward of never feeling bad about saying “I need help” outweighs any reservations you might have about losing more of your time.

Do Something Different Every Day

Routines are terrible to break. But if you can break one routine, you can break another.

So for example, if you have a resolution to go to the gym every day (which you shouldn’t have, but whatever), first try changing the order in which you get ready in the morning. Instead of brushing your teeth, then showering, then eating breakfast, try eating breakfast, then brushing your teeth, then showering. Sure, it’s silly — but it empowers you to make other kinds of changes without feeling like your whole world is going to collapse.

What are you going to do in the new Jewish year? What’s something different you would like to try? Let us know!

Rabbi Patrick is the director of PunkTorah. His poorly planned goal of going zero-carb is the inspiration for this article. 

  • Hezakiah

    Intersting way of putting it,but…there’s always a but isn’t there…. the
    tools to change are always with us. Yom Kippur doesn’t just point out our
    faults,screw up,faux pas’, oops, and other assorted wouldashouldacoulda’s. It is
    a flashing neon sign that says,”See? You didn’t try to follow Torah and when you
    did decide,you just tried to hard to do it all at once.” Pretty much what you
    said yourself there,Rebbe,if you read the white lines between the black

    While making something a habit like having the Modeh on a paper on the
    night stand to read before getting out of bed can most definitely help in making
    it a daily mitzvah, to have it just become a habit can take away the meaning to
    be just rote.Looking out the window and thinking about the living world waiting
    for you to come take your place in it before you say it helps remind you of the

    On the money with the resolutions though. To many people get that spark of
    Yiddiskeit fanned a little so it flares and try to take on to much. Stuff a
    whole burrito in your mouth and you’ll choke,but one bite at a time gets the job
    done.If someone is looking to try for perfection,disappointment is all they
    get. Hashem knows we’re not perfect,which is why there are so many ways to use
    charity,prayer and repentance to atone.He does want us to try our best though
    one day at a time.Yasher koach,l’shanna tova and l’chaim !!

  • http://www.embroideredprayers.com/ Ketzirah

    I’m with you! In a total post-high holy days lull. I’m a believer in Dream Decrees, which are all about real change and not just the “resolutions” that always fail. Thankfully, I pulled one together for this year and have practices set up to help me get through the post-high holidays lull.

  • LindaGuitar

    I’ve had this article open on my computer for over a week now. I finally got around to reading it! If there’s one thing I semi-resolve to do and never get done, it’s reading all the articles I open on my computer. Many of them eventually get saved to PDF files and filed in a folder that I never go back to.
    But, in general, I do avoid making resolutions. I know, from long experience, that I can’t follow through with resolutions.

    I do occasionally make some good changes in my routine or habits, though.
    So I’m seconding everything you said here!

    I guess we all live and learn and grow, at our own paces. If parents of young children (you mentioned screaming at one’s kids) can pick up the lifelong pace a bit and model this always-learning, always-striving-to-improve behavior to their kids while the kids are still young, they are well ahead of the game, and their kids are the lucky ones!.

    One of the best lessons we can take with us from Yom Kippur is the constant acknowledgement that we are not perfect, and the willingness to admit and apologize when we’ve done wrong, and – when kids are involved – talk to them about how WE could handle the situation better nest time! Even when this is about breaking our own, personal self-resolutions, talking things out with the kids is beneficial! (Kids are usually so much better at thinking outside the box and coming up with novel ideas than adults!)

    For all you young adults who don’t have kids – it’s a sign of societal dysfunction that our children are so segregated into institutions, and then kept shut away in their houses doing homework, or spending their time in carefully structured activities and specific venues that they rarely get to socialize with older and younger kids, let alone adults in their communities. But there’s nothing so good for getting out of a rut as spending time getting to know and listen to kids in a non-authoritarian setting. This could mean volunteering with youth groups or as a Big Brother/Big Sister, or starting up informal pick-up sports groups in a neighborhood, or offering free lessons in something that kids will enjoy, reading aloud to groups of young ones at the library, organizing some kind of club, etc.

    One last thing – Patrick mentioned trying to go zreo-carb. DON’T! Every cell in your body needs carbohydrates to function! It’s basic high-school-level biology! We need healthy, nutritious carbohydrates, in healthy amounts! We also need healthy fats and healthy proteins! We can get all of the right types of carbs, fats, and proteins from natural, unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans, lentils, etc), nuts, and seeds!