Yom Kippur the holiest day in Judaism’s calendar is today.
The Day of Atonement [Yom Kippur] is the climax of the ten-day period of repentance that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment. These ten days of reflection and inspiration bring us the eternal message that it is possible for human beings to improve their characters. They speak to us about our ethical conscience and moral responsibility, about self-examination and spiritual regeneration.”
Such a wonderful serious holy day ending the high holy days which began with Rosh Hashanah.
I have no way of knowing what will take place in the synagogues of my city. I wish all of them a good day.
In South Africa a group of Jews are dedicating their fast to reflect on being Jewish in the context of the occupation of Palestine. This seems to be a creative and very contemporary attempt to make the feast contextual and meaningful. All religions of course have similar times of serious reflection on our lives.
Isaiah’s admonition and warnings are germane to the point and this reading I have often used in the Christian period of Lent.
Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Then these South African Jews cut to the chase
At the forefront of wrongs we need to right is the ongoing mainstream Jewish support for the Israeli colonization of Palestine, and its continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is being done in our name, and we have not done enough to stop it. It is for this reason that we believe that Gaza is the most urgent issue for us to reflect on this Yom Kippur. We will be going out and physically fasting and raising money for those in Gaza who have suffered unconscionable horrors.
Dedicating our Yom Kippur fast to the people of Gaza follows this line of thinking. Unlike the dominant Zionist organizations, some of whom preach ethnic and religious nationalism and the bombing of Gaza directly from the bimah (the Jewish equivalent of a pulpit), our beliefs are based on tolerance, inclusivity and social justice. We think that this is what Judaism, and Yom Kippur in particular, is all about.
This is prophetic Judaism at its best.
As one Jewish woman stated recently “Yom Kippur in Palestine and the Palestinian people are again atoning for Israel’s sin of occupation.”