First things first.

Parshas B’reishis is all about the beginnings: First creation, first light, first day, first person, first commandment, and of course, first sin. After blessing mankind to be fruitful, Hashem gives Adam his first official mitzvah. Yes, it has to do with trees and fruit, but it’s not what you think.

As we approach Yom Kippur, we recognize that it is unquestionably one of the most important days of the year. And yet, in many ways, it is a mystery. While one might assumedly categorize it as a day of suffering and sadness, Chazal refer to Yom Kippur as a spiritually uplifting day of atonement and rebirth (Taanis 4:8). There is even an element of the day that is associated with the happiness of Purim (Yom K’-Purim, a day like Purim). At the same time, though, it is a fast day. We normally characterize fast days as times of mourning and sadness, such as Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz and Tish’ah B’Av. How is Yom Kippur different, and what is the nature of this day?

It came out of nowhere. A flood of emotions suddenly hit Benny. Before he knew what was happening, there were tears streaming down his face. He immediately pulled over and tried to regain his composure. Strangely enough, he had no idea why he was crying. He sat there for a few minutes before it suddenly hit him, hard.

The birth of a new year is a time of reflection and resolution, when hope and inspiration fill the air. We dream about what this upcoming year holds in store for us, how we can make the rest of our lives the best of our lives. We all have ideas, ambitions, and aspirations that we yearn to bring to fruition, and the new year gives us “permission” to revisit these goals and breathe new life into them. For a brief moment, everything is crystal clear; we see our purpose and our path with vivid clarity. However, there is an underlying frustration that accompanies this time period, as well. If we reflect honestly, we often realize that our new year’s resolutions are awfully similar to those of last year, and the year before, and the year before…