You would think that a day on which Jews fast, a day that we are very restricted in what is permitted, would be a day of sadness. But Yom Kippur is not a day of sadness at all. It is a day of repentance, and a day of joy.
To be sure, it is not a day during which we do much dancing or partying. In fact, partying would be forbidden. But joy?
Yes, joy. On Yom Kippur we rejoice, and even more so at the closing of Yom Kippur. In fact, most Chassidim have the custom that after breaking the fast when Yom Kippur ends, they return to the synagogue and sing and dance for hours.
What is the reason for this joy and happiness?
It should not be too hard to understand the joy with which a child returns home from a long overseas voyage. The parents are happy as well.
That is what repentance means: returning “home.” When we repent and return to Hashem, there is no greater reason for joy. The time for sorrow is past, once we are returning home.
Yes, we must indeed feel regret over our sins. Yes, we must seriously ask Hashem to forgive us and to grant us a good and sweet year.
But we cannot allow that regret to control us or overwhelm us. We are not allowed to despair or to get depressed. Judaism teaches us to repent with joy, to live with joy, and above all, serve Hashem with joy and thanks.
As many Rabbis have said, “No matter what troubles a person faces, they can be overcome and removed through the joy of performing a Mitzvah.”
And that applies throughout the entire year, not just on Yom Kippur.