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An Unorthodox Approach to Yom Kippur

October 12, 2016

Sometimes, I think best when I write, hence this post.

This year, I took a rather unorthodox approach to Yom Kippur (our Day of Atonement), not by spending the whole day in the synagogue reciting the liturgy, but rather by taking the time at home to think about the meaning of the day.

I did read selections in one of our prayer books in our home library, but then I reviewed the chapter on Yom Kippur in The Jewish Holidays: A Guide & Commentary, by Michael Strassfeld, also in our home library, which was actually more thought provoking.

In it, Yom Kippur was likened to facing death and choosing life, as a metaphor for repentance and renewal.

By recalling my experiences with, and reactions to, my heart attack and stenting, now seven months ago, I was actually able to relate more concretely to the ideas of Yom Kippur.

Immediately following the heart attack, I had one stent placed in a coronary artery but had to wait three weeks for the second stent to be so placed.

It was in that period of time that I was certain I was going to die.

Thankfully I have lived through both procedures and am now in good health.

Nevertheless, this was a scary time for me and I went through it with trepidation and fear, and also introspection, like now.

In fact, shortly afterwards, I wrote this poem:

My heart murmurs its thanks
To all who saved me
First to God who oversees all
And to my wife with whom I share my life
Then to my children and family
For their loving kindness and concern
And of course to the physicians
Whose magic opened my arteries … and my eyes.
The heart is the center of life
And of emotion.
I am overcome by all of it.
As I look to regaining my strength.
I am out of the heart of darkness
But not like Mistah Kurtz – he died.
My own river of life flows more freely now
And courses through my thoughts.
I am grateful for life, for family
And for the joy of living
To see what lies downstream for us all.

Since that time, I have become more aware than ever concerning my life and my surroundings, and I continue daily, including today, to thank God –

– for loving family and caring friends,
– for life where and how we live,
– for the air we breathe, for the light of day, and for the majesty of the stars at night,
– for the nourishment of good food, and even
– for the second chance given me to be a better person in my daily life, through mitzvot (good deeds), tzedakah (charitable action) and other things.

This is the change of Yom Kippur, from facing death to choosing life.

This is my renewal.



David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California who thoughtfully writes about other things as well. His website is at .


From → Bubbe Meises, Stories

One Comment
  1. Hi Dave —

    Thanks so much for this slice of celebration and great writing. I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now and have really enjoyed your insight and introspection. I didn’t know about your heart attack and stint but I sure am glad that you are back on your feet and hope that you are feeling fine.

    Many, many blessings for the next year to you and your family. Our God is good, wise, kind and loving!


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