We all have values. We all have convictions and morals. They often pop in and out of our mind consciously and unconsciously, but they are there lurking in the background nonetheless. They often form a backbone for us in times of challenge or stress. What you believe in firmly can help you suffer indignation, insult, or in extreme cases violence.
Yet despite all the good our convictions do for us, for many the thought of rethinking, rejuvenating, or intensely scrutinizing our values is not on our “to do” list.
Judaism has a built in day, 24 hours once a year just for that. It’s called Yom Kippur, and while from a ritual standpoint the day’s essence is all about atonement for moral failings, the basis for these spiritual benchmarks is a list of values, morals and convictions. It doesn't matter whether these values come from the Torah or from your own sense of right and wrong. What matters is whether or not you are living with your convictions. Because as soon as you stray from your core beliefs, you either have inner turmoil, or you’ll change your beliefs to fit your behavior. And either one is no good.
So all people should do this regardless of religion, and the truth is, even if your agnostic or atheist, it is in your best interest to spend an entire day once a year re-strengthening your commitment to your values.
The fasting and prayer associated with Yom Kippur act as an enhancement to this process of introspection on values. You can’t think clearly about a moral conviction while you’re on the beach sipping a frozen Daquiri. When fasting and praying a person leaves his/her dependence on the physical and gains a stronger connection to the spiritual. This is the best way to be inspired to be on a higher level, but is sort of an artificial high. When you go back to the real world you go back to your daily habits. However, when properly inspired you can have a feeling or thought that carries with you for the rest of the year.
You don’t need to be Jewish to gain the basic benefit of strengthening your convictions. You don’t need to even believe in God. You just need to be interested in your beliefs and convictions. After all, they are what make you….you.