Home > Politics, Religion > Yom Kippur Reflection

Yom Kippur Reflection

September 29, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments
UN Headquarters, New York

UN Headquarters, New York

Yesterday was Yom Kippur. Along with millions of other Jews, I fasted and spent time in synagogue.* The holiday runs from sunset to sunset, so the fast begins before the opening sunset and, in principle, concludes well after the closing sunset. One has to be sure the sun has set before eating, and the best way to do that is to wait for first stars to appear. That’s the tradition anyway. But Reform congregations don’t bother with that. The opening service might start as late as 7:30, rather than before sunset, allowing for a later pre-fast dinner. And the closing service might end by 6:00 the next day, or even earlier, allowing for an earlier break fast. In my case, my fast might have fallen a bit short of 24 hours.

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t how heroic or non-heroic my fast was. Rather, I want to say a few words about peace. The service that concludes Yom Kippur, the Neilah service, is a beautiful one, brought to an end by the blowing of the shofar. Many Reform synagogues use a prayerbook for Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur called Gates of Repentance. Two pages into the text for Neilah is a passage, to be read aloud by rabbi and congregation, that begins as follows:

Grant us peace, your most precious gift, O Eternal Source of peace, and give us the will to proclaim its message to all the peoples of the earth. Bless our country, that it may always be a stronghold of peace, and its advocate among the nations. May contentment reign within its borders, health and happiness within its homes.

This passage set me to wondering what a stronghold of peace might look like, and how we might be its advocate. My guess is that we’re failing as a nation. This failure is at least in part due to Jewish political and journalistic leaders — Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Tom Friedman– who eagerly argued for war with Iraq, and some of whom are now ready to take us to war with Iran. They don’t seem too interested in the words of Isaiah that follow a few pages later in the Neilah service. You know, those words about beating “swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor ever again shall they train for war.”

*I realized at one point that yesterday’s fast was my 45th in a row. No big deal. It seems to get easier by the year, perhaps because as my cumulative lifetime eating continues to grow, missing a day becomes less consequential.

Categories: Politics, Religion
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: