Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, falls ten days after Rosh Hashanah. When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the High Priest effected atonement for the entire people through an elaborate ritual. Today, in the absence of the Temple, each of us stands, alone, together, naked as it were, before God. Yom Kippur is the dramatic culmination of the entire season of teshuvah, repentance. On Yom Kippur, Jews abstain from eating, drinking, bathing, sexual relations, and the wearing of leather (a sign of luxury) for 25 hours. Jews dress in white and traditionally spend most of the day in synagogue.
How can we embrace the powerful exercise of Shmita in a way that is both personally meaningful and works to restore the fabric of our community?
Our most holy texts make it clear that we may not stand idly by while violence is perpetrated in our midst.
I have said the words of the Yom Kippur Vidui many times, always awkwardly aware that most of the list of sins did not apply to me. I never thought I would come to embrace its awkwardness, and I certainly never imagined that it could guide me toward making decisions I was afraid to make.