The Maggid (teacher) of Koznitz would say: "On Yom Kippur, why would anyone want to eat?" This spiritual man felt the holiness of the day so powerfully that eating was out of the question for him. He was lifted above the realm of the mundane and totally absorbed in the spiritual.
More than a little bit above the experience of most of us, for sure. But something we can understand. After all, haven't we heard of scientist and mathematicians who have been so absorbed in their work that they don't eat or sleep?
On Yom Kippur, what we're involved in is more stimulating than a problem in science or math. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. It was the day on which the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Beis HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, experiencing a direct bond with G-d. There was nothing else there but him and G-d's revealed presence.
In microcosm, this state of connection is experienced by every Jew on Yom Kippur. This is the heart of the Neilah service, the last of our Yom Kippur prayers. Neilah means "locked." During Neilah, every person is "locked in," alone with G-d. Every person has his or her time to be together with Him.
Will we consciously feel this? There surely are differences between what goes on in each person's heart, but on this day, every person feels some spiritual inspiration. He or she draws closer to G-d and becomes more aware of his or her Jewish roots.
It's a function of time. Just as there are natural settings which arouse feelings of beauty and awe, Yom Kippur is a day created for spiritual inspiration. At the core of our being, beyond the "I" with which we carry on our ordinary daily experience, everyone of us possesses a soul which is "an actual part of G-d." And on Yom Kippur, the nature of the day causes this spiritual core to be revealed, pushing it into our conscious experience.
That's why we recite confessional prayers on Yom Kippur; it's like a couple making up. If they've felt distance and separation, and then come together again, they'll look each other up close and say they're sorry. It's got nothing to do with a guilt trip; it's a natural response when you've hurt someone you love.
And the couple promise to change their conduct in the future, to turn away from those things which cause each other pain and to do more of those things that bring them happiness.
That's what our prayers are about on Yom Kippur: coming close to G-d, saying we're sorry because we caused Him pain, and promising that in the next year we will try to do better.
For Yom Kippur is not intended to be an isolated spiritual event. Although it is unique in its holiness, the intent is that the uplifting influence of Yom Kippur will inspire changes in our conduct throughout the year. On Yom Kippur, we've got to think of what happens afterwards, how to make the spiritual feelings of that day a spur to enable us to live better and more fulfilled lives in the year to come.