This evening I finished what was perhaps the happiest Day of Atonement I can remember. Despite the fact that I was very hungry (even more so than usual), my soul has been afflicted for long enough that my soul felt less afflicted than usual, which was highly odd to me. At any rate, I had the chance to meet some awesome people in Portland, including one person who had known me for a long while online and already knew my circle of friends from Tampa. Being around friendly and polite people makes it hard for my own soul to feel afflicted, regardless of what is happening in the body. It is strange how social needs can often overcome mere physical concerns.
It is one of the striking aspects of Hebrew that it is a language that is far more large and broad than Greek is. Some languages are clinical and precise, while other languages are broad and general and based on larger concepts. It ought not to be a surprise that my own approach is generally more Hebrew than Greek, in that I tend to prefer to speak broadly and conceptually and talk about many situations as possible rather than to single anyone or anything out. As my pattern of thinking and communicating is more Hebrew than Greek, it would make sense that anyone who wishes to understand what I am saying would wish to think as broadly as possible and to recognize that any personal experiences I describe are merely entrances into deeper ruminations. This sort of issue appears quite frequently with regards to the Day of Atonement, which might be a surprise to many who tend to think very narrowly and precisely where the Bible has no aim at clinical precision.
The commandment for the Day of Atonement requires people to afflict their souls, and the most obvious way this is done is fasting . A fast of half a day is barely noticed, and even a day is not too difficult to manage if one has self-discipline. More than that definitely is an affliction, though some can fast for as long as six weeks, so long as they keep well hydrated. But fasting is not the only way to afflict a soul. A soul may be afflicted by deep, brokenhearted reflection and meditation, pouring over griefs and sorrows , a sort of affliction I know well. The fact that there are many ways to afflict a soul would seem to indicate that perhaps God has more in mind than simple rituals, but is interested in soul-searching examination as we seek to reconcile with God and with others. Needless to say, we all have reconciliation to do, especially in this day and age. We could all stand to be much better at such matters.
Still, even pondering such matters I did not feel as if my soul was particularly afflicted today. It is not because I did not think or ponder deeply–that is generally a safe assumption, but rather because the light affliction of a fast is but a small problem compared to the burdens my heart and soul have been carrying. We ought to remember as well that God removes burdens on the Day of Atonement too, and so it is. Let us therefore celebrate the mercy of God, in setting us free from our anxieties and fears, and giving us a new beginning and a fresh start. For did not Jesus Christ come to be our Jubilee, to set us free from the burdens of life in a fallen world so that we could be better people? Let us therefore take advantage of the opportunities that God has given us.