When I first came to Israel you could feel the holidays in the air. Maybe of them you still can. But sadly, at least here in Haifa, Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—has become another day on the calendar. Only the signs over the time clock at work with a list of suggestions for employees and patients who plan to fast, and a list of times for the prayers, remind me that this holiest of days is rapidly approaching.

My first Yom Kippur in Israel was amazing. You could feel the silence in the air; and even the Romanian immigrants who lived beneath me didn’t cook pork on this most sacred of days. The days before hand were filled with a camaraderie as people seemed to be kinder, quicker to apologize, and easier to get along with each other; and even more interested in understanding why I could not say “Hatima Tova”—how could I wish others that their name be written in the Book of Life on the basis of sincere repentance and fasting when they had not accepted the final sacrifice to make it so? That was 1982.

Today, I still cannot say Hatima Tova, but fewer people talk about the day. I don’t hear the endless discussions: are you fasting? Why? Why not? And over the years, the sound of cars has become a never-ending background—even on Yom Kippur.

I’m more concerned about work, my car, figuring out air fares for a possible November trip, and the stupid computer games that lure me into another pit of unredeemed time. More concerned about these things than the hurt feelings of a friend—it took thinking about the meaning of Yom Kippur to realize I needed to apologize—I really was wrong.

I find myself thinking about these Days of Awe and what they should mean to my people, and to me; a chance to think more deeply about our relationships with the Creator of the Universe and how that works out in our relationships with others.

Perhaps, for those with ears to hear, the call to repentance is still in the air, more strongly at this time of year, but I need to hear that call all the time. Not just during this amazingly special time of year. It’s the only cure for a lukewarm spirit…

I have often said that if we truly celebrated all the Jewish and Christian holidays (from the word holy) we would spend all year either rejoicing or repenting. There are those that say we need to be that way without holidays, and I agree. But holidays are like a marker on the road pointing us in the right direction. They help to keep us from getting lost in the mundane selfishness of everyday life.

I am thankful for holidays, and for Yom Kippur—past and present. You see, Yeshua my Messiah is the sacrifice and the scapegoat, and I treasure these days when I can especially remember all He has done for me, and to remember to be thankful for the Hatima Tova HE has given me—for eternity!