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Andrew Blitman likes to draw and write about philosophy, poetry, and science. The author of two books, he will graduate from the University of Miami in May 2014 with a Masters of Professional Science degree in Marine Affairs. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail him at thewrittenblit@gmail.com.

On Atonement


Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, marks the finale of a ten-day period of rejoice toward a New Year. By tradition, many people who observe the holiday–the holiest day of the year–do so by fasting. By avoiding food, water, and other forms of sustenance from sunset one day to the sunset of the next, they pay homage to all sins committed during the previous year.

Sacrifice is the quintessence of atonement. By sacrificing a part of yourself–a craving, a habit, or even a necessity–you acknowledge the problems in your life and demonstrate a clear desire to fix them. Or, better yet, redeem them. You also acknowledge the inherent responsibility for everything you say or do that does not adhere to some internal or external standard.

Awareness is a humbling experience. Accessible only through reflection, awareness of problems leads to the discovery of their underlying causes and, ultimately, their resolution. In fact, that’s the best way to know yourself. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism also claim that meditation can lead to purity of mind and self. The leaders and propagators of those religions emphasize atonement, the self-sacrifice as redemption for impurities, as the path to enlightenment. Judaism, too, displays that desire for enlightenment on Yom Kippur. Muslims do the same, displaying disciplined self-sacrifice during the month of Ramadan.

It is important, regardless of religion or ideology, to be aware of hypocrisy and sin. While we should acknowledge sin as something undesirable, it is important that we do not declare it evil because doing so ignores its purpose. Both unintentional and preventable sins provide opportunities for growth when we draw the right lessons from them. Just as it is impossible to know light without understanding darkness, we cannot fully understand enlightenment until we have acknowledged its equal and opposite counterpart.

So long as we do not go overboard, sin helps us comprehend our emotional, physical, and metaphysical limits. We should always acknowledge and atone for our mistakes, but we should not judge ourselves for minor errors. Instead, we should continue to mend, fixing the flaws we can change and embracing the ones we cannot. We should also be grateful for the opportunity to reflect. Mankind has no greater tool than memory.

So, remember this. Life is a journey, not a destination. Wherever you may roam, have faith that responsibility and integrity will guide you toward enlightenment. That is the lesson of atonement; never forget it!


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