>> Torah portion
Shabbat Yom Kippur: Leviticus 16:1-
34, Numbers 29:7-11, Isaiah 57:14-
58:14; (Afternoon) Leviticus 18:1-30,
Jonah 1:1-4:11, Micah 7:18-20.
magine walking inside the scariest
place you can imagine. Conjure up
how your stomach felt when, as a
kid, you turned the door handle of the
haunted house and went inside. Hear
the imaginary whispers of the dead
talking to you, as if to say, "We are
This week's Torah por-
tion describes how the high
priest entered the Holy of
Holies, an antechamber in
the Temple of Jerusalem.
Only he was permitted
to enter and only on Yom
Kippur. Once inside, it was
believed that God descended
to Earth to decide who
would live and who would
die in the year to come.
The high priest dresses
himself in pure white linen.
In his left hand, he holds a ladle full
of special spices and herbs, and in his
right, a pan of burning coals. He goes
inside and waits for the room to fill up
with aromatic smoke.
The high priest was the most pow-
erful person in All of Israel because he
alone held the life of the people in his
hands. If he performed his responsi-
bilities correctly, pleased God, he could
influence Him. If he blundered, the
consequences would be devastating.
Imagine how he felt. He must have
been terrified. But he was also incred-
ibly powerful. At the very moment
when the high priest was the most
powerful, he was also the most afraid.
We are taught at an early age to
disassociate from our fears."Don't be
afraid:' we hear hundreds, if not thou-
sands of times while we are growing
up. As if to say, "If you allow yourself
to be afraid, you will not be able to
be brave." But the high priest on Yom
Kippur has something else to teach us.
We can be incredibly afraid and
incredibly powerful at the same time. In
fact, we can source our power from our
fears. Our fears heighten our
senses, focus our attention
and wake up our brain. Fear
deserves to be honored and
respected. How different life
could be, how much richer,
if we would stop wasting our
energy on resisting our fears
and, instead, learn from
In the East, Aikido is
practiced as a form of
martial art. It is described
as "the way of unifying
life energy" Masters of this art use
the energy of the attackers to defeat
them. An attempted blow to the leg
is comfortably avoided with a turn
of the master's ankle. The greater the
force used against him, the greater the
opportunity to gain power over him.
He does not need to block or defend
— he only needs to yield and bend.
It is the New Year and the start of
a new life in all of us. This year, let
us honor ourselves, however we feel,
especially when we are afraid. Let us
trust ourselves to be brave and strong
even as we feel scared and over-
whelmed. Let us be as powerful as the
high priest in Jerusalem.
Tamara Kolton is rabbi at the Birmingham
Temple in Farmington Hills.
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