Yom Kippur: The Battle of Sin vs. Self
The Yom Kippur liturgy does not allow one to focus on the fun of religion and to push aside the reality of evil and sin. The words are utterly uncompromising. They do not speak of sin broadly and abstractly, but concretely and specifically, thus forcing a direct confrontation of our sinful inclinations. We ask God for forgiveness for our offensive speech, lustful behavior, and oppressing our fellow human beings; we ask for pardon for our contempt for parents and teachers, for lewd association, and for fraud and falsehood. The prayers mention our scoffing, our slander, and our haughty airs. Faced with these reminders of our sinful ways, laid out in excruciating detail and repeated throughout the day, there is no place to hide.
Of course, this liturgy — harsh, searching, but also cleansing and awe-inspiring — is said only once per year, no doubt because the rabbis understood that we would be overwhelmed if every day this were the primary content of Jewish prayer. In addition, while we recite our sins, the primary message of Yom Kippur is one of hope: the God who hears our prayers is a God of compassion, and if we mend our ways, God will have mercy on us and forgive us.