Every year for Shabbos Shuva (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) we ask students to each share a tidbit, message or reflection about Teshuvah, about the High Holidays, about the Machzor etc. Collectively, it makes for a long Shabbos Shuva Drasha (speech or lecture) which Rabbis are supposed to say to their congregations on this Shabbos.

Here’s what was shared based on what we remember:

Yes, we will be masked and seated at a distance this Yom Kippur, but really at its heart Yom Kippur is the day when we are unmasked before G-d, we have no distance. It’s all about proximity and closeness. – Matt B.

When I was younger I used to think that Yom Kippur was all about feeling bad and guilty about all the wrong things I did and it didn’t make me feel right and it didn’t speak to me. But I have my cumulative 3 months of Chabad yeshiva experience, where it was reinforced that Yom Kippur is more about closeness and guilt, and its trying to better understand, improve and deepen our relationship with G-d. I like to focus on some areas that I can grow in and make that my Yom Kippur. – Ari S. 

When it comes to food blessings the biblical obligation is the after-blessing. The verse says: “Eat, be satisfied (and then) bless G-d.” I guess this translates into how I see Yom Kippur. The big blessing of it is at the end, at the climax, when all the prayers are said, when we reached as high as we could. That’s where the blessing comes in.  – Ben M. 

I really like Neilah, the fifth and last prayer of Yom Kippur. It’s the climax, everything leads up to that. It’s a time of tremendous connection. – Orly M. 

I liked YK here last year. What did I like? The little explanations that kept us in the loop throughout davening. – Estee S. 

More people keep Yom Kippur, at least to some degree. Even people with a very minimal Jewish involvement do something for Yom Kippur. It says something about this day. – David I.

One of the big symbols of the high holidays is the balance scale. As the Rambam writes, any good deed, all it takes is one good deed, can tip the scale towards merit. That emphasis on one single mitzvah was a big emphasis of the Rebbe, and there’s actually a story where a group of college students in the 1960’s asked the Rebbe if he thought they were good Jews. A loaded question. The Rebbe asked them if they heard of Jacob’s Ladder, they did. Ah, each mitzvah is a rung. A Jew at a lower rung looking upward is a good Jew, better than a Jew at a higher rung looking downward, said the Rebbe. The main focus this time of year isn’t a tally of our deeds but direction and focus – Raizy R.

My father isn’t that religious, my mother is somewhat, but my grandparents are very religious, so the high holidays are a time when I connect a lot with my grandparents .  Dylan D. 

I like davening shorter. I like to do what we need to do but not drag it out or make it extra long.  – H.A.K. 

I gotta disagree with H.A.K. on this one. I actually like a long davening on Yom Kippur. – Jason F.

I like a long davening, too, but last year I was in Israel and there was Zero Break, just a 11-hours straight of marathon davening. I’m happier to have a more reasonable prayer length here this year. – Sam G.