–Genesis 18:1 (Ne’ilah prayer)
Just prior to Ne’ilah (the concluding service of Yom Kippur), one of the Chassidic masters ascended the bimah (platform) and said tearfully, “My dear brothers and sisters! God in His infinite mercy gave us the entire month of Elul to repent, but we failed to take advantage of it. He gave us the awesome days of Rosh Hashanah, when our standing in judgment before the heavenly tribunal should have stimulated us to repent, but we neglected that opportunity. He gave us the special grace of the Ten Days of Penitence, but we let these pass too. All we have left now are a few precious moments that are propitious for forgiveness.
“The Sages of the Talmud tell us that if a person enters a marriage contract on the condition that he is a perfect tzaddik, then it is binding even if he is known to be a complete rasha (wicked person). Why? Because he may have had one moment of sincere contrition that transformed him from a complete rasha to a perfect tzaddik. “Do you hear that, my dear brothers and sisters? All it takes one brief moment of sincere contrition! We have the opportunity of that moment now. In just one moment we can emerge totally cleansed of all our sins, in a state of perfection akin to that of Adam in the Garden of Eden.”
The rabbi wept profusely and uncontrollably. “Could we be so foolish as to overlook such a rare opportunity? Let us assist one another and join in achieving sincere repentance!”
Today I shall…
…take advantage of the Divine gift of forgiveness, and make my resolutions of repentance sincere, so that the new person that emerges will be unencumbered by the burdens of the past.
-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Tishrei 10”
I’m not going to be fasting for Yom Kippur this year. I’ve fasted in the past. Further in the past, I’ve fasted and attended religious worship, although only elements of the Yom Kippur service were involved. A Jewish friend emailed me last night and asked if I were going to fast in solidarity with the Jewish people. I had thought about it, but I know that my family won’t be fasting and it seemed a little presumptive for me to fast, since I’m the only non-Jewish member of my immediate family.
I suppose you could say that if I fasted, I would be leading by example, but it could also boomerang back and make me look like I’m being critical of them and taking on a “holier than thou” attitude. I’m not taking the day off of work, either. I think my family will be working tomorrow as well. I suppose this is a problem, since they are Jewish and choosing not to observe the Yom Kippur fast nor going to shul to repent with the community of Israel.
Last spring, I wrote an article called “Redeeming the Heart of Israel” (Part 1 and Part 2) in which I defined the Christian relationship to the Jewish people as one of encouragement and support for Jews to return to Torah and to the ways of their fathers. That’s easier said than done when it’s your own family.
Oh, I’ve dropped subtle and not-so-subtle hints, but ultimately, the choice isn’t mine to make. It’s theirs. Each individual, Jew, Christian or anyone else, negotiates their own relationship with God. For me, my atonement is in Jesus Christ. Frankly, I believe that’s true of everyone, but not everyone perceives that truth in their lives. There are elements of both the Abrahamic and New Covenant that link both Jews and Christians, through the Messiah, to God, so Messiah is the hope for all of us.
But since I am not Jewish, the particulars of the Sinai covenant do not have blessings for me. Without a Jewish “lived” experience, I’m unsure how to encourage my family to be who they are and maybe it’s not my place to try. But then, when you love someone, you want what’s best for them; you want what will make them happy.
God opens His Hand and satisfies the desires of every living thing (Psalm 145:16). My desire is for my family to return to the mitzvot; return more fully to the Torah, and to be the people God made them to be; Jewish people. I apologize and regret anything I may have said or done that has been to the contrary. I pray to God that in the coming year, He may help turn the hearts of all His Jewish children back to Him and help we Christians be more compassionate of His Chosen People, that we may stand at their side and together, all acknowledge that God is One. On that day, may all Christians fast on Yom Kippur in solidarity with their Jewish friends and family.
May the Messiah come soon and in our days, and may you be sealed for a good year in the book of life.
To honor the most Holy day for the Jewish people, I will not present a “morning meditation” on Wednesday which is Yom Kippur (begins at sundown on Tuesday). My next blog post will be Thursday morning.