This evening begins Yom Kippur, the most solemn of the Jewish holidays. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. It is a day set aside to “afflict the soul,” to atone for the sins of the past year, a day for amendment of behavior and seeking of forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. The past year has been difficult in so many ways. As a nation, we have much to atone for as we review what we have done and continue to do to one another. Our personal atoning for sins against others requires first seeking reconciliation with them and righting the wrongs committed against them if possible. This is also the atonement needed within this nation, an atonement for wrongs committed based in fear and a distorted sense of entitlement, an atonement needed even as we realize the enormity and idealism of the challenge. Today focuses on a requirement and a call to all of us; it is a reminder that the love of God and the love of neighbor can never be separated.
Wash me from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
If I have broken relationships, I will seek reconciliation if possible. I will pray for forgiveness and reconciliation among the divided factions within our country and not contribute to the factors that cause them. Join your prayer and purpose of atonement to that of the Jewish community.
Who can say “I have purified my heart, I am free of sin?
There is no man on earth so righteous that he never sins!”
Cast away the evil you have done and get yourself a new heart and a new spirit.
This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says our God:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds’,
God also adds,
‘I will remember* their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
True repentance is the key to the door of mercy.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holy of holies of Jewish time. It is that rarest of phenomena, a Jewish festival without food. Instead it is a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgment when, collectively and repeatedly, we confess our sins and pray to be written into God’s Book of Life.
We are all one – or at least we should be – and it is our job, our duty, and our great challenge to fight the voices of division and seek the salve of reconciliation.
Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace it shouldn’t be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice.
What is past is past, there is a future left to all who have the virtue to repent and the energy to atone.
Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton
Of all acts of humanity repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.
If there is to be reconciliation, first there must be truth.
Timothy B. Tyson
Perhaps one day, all these conflicts will end, and it won’t be because of great statesmen or churches or organizations like this one. It’ll be because people have changed.
It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”
Martin Luther King Jr