Tonight begins Yom Kippur also known as the Day of Atonement, 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 others. As world citizens, we have much to atone for as we review what we have done and continue to do to one another, to the community of life, and to earth itself. 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 toward other living creatures and this plundered earth. Even as we realize the enormity and idealism of the challenge, we realize it is imperative. 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 others 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. I will reflect on and take seriously my relationship with all living beings and this beautiful earth.
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.…Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for the One who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.
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.
Every Yom Kippur, Jewish tradition requires a strict spiritual inventory. You aren’t supposed to just sit around feeling guilty, but to take action in the real world to set things right.