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Yom Kippur, 5784

09/19/2023 08:44:19 AM


Rabbi Rudin

Every year we are asked to run a spiritual marathon - 25 hours of prayer, reflection, repentance and… fasting!

I hear stories of our ancestors in the old country making it a literal marathon where they are in shul for the entire time, everyone dressed in white robes, joining together for heart-rending prayers of confession and regret, sleeping on the benches for a few hours, singing, reading the stories of the martyrs, meditating. And then, as the stars come out, taking a bite of Challah and a sip of wine, hearing that last Shofar blast and going out into the crisp autumn night feeling reborn and renewed.

It’s an inspiring thought and even though we live in different times and circumstances, the intent of creating a communal catharsis, wringing out our souls in tears and tempering our spirits through the furnace of the fast are still powerful touchstones of memory even if it’s different now.

We may not have the purity of purpose and simplicity of faith of the shtetl. But we do have the race to run. The marathon of Atonement is not about religiosity or faith. It is about forgiveness. The ideal of everyone going to each other and asking for and granting forgiveness is as beautiful and compelling as the memory of the all-night-all-day vigil of prayer in the shtiebel (the small synagogue) of the shtetl. It may not be realized in the same way now. It may be more complicated, more difficult, more nuanced.

But the idea of letting go of resentment, of releasing anger and letting grievance slide off our backs into the void is as important and relevant as it always was, whether those who have wronged us ask for forgiveness or not. The idea of recalling our own foibles and faults and failures and offering them to G-d has the same potential for release and relief for us as it did for our ancestors.

And while we ask forgiveness of others and of G-d, how about forgiving G-d? Sometimes grievance takes hold of us so deeply that our own growth and even the way we look is crabbed and distorted. Yom Kippur is not a settling up of debts but of standing in the purifying waterfall of love, acceptance and relinquishment. If one day’s spiritual work can make a difference, then Yom Kippur is that one day

Thu, June 20 2024 14 Sivan 5784