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Shared Reflections
AS I READ AND REREAD THE PARASHA FOR THIS YOM KIPPER, THERE WERE PHRASES THAT JUMPED OUT AT ME:

”YOU STAND THIS DAY”

“KEEP GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS”

“GOD, THE SOURCE OF ALL LOVE”

“IF YOU TURN YOUR MIND AWAY AND DO NOT LISTEN, YOU WILL BE LED ASTRAY”
“CHOOSE LIFE”

WHAT DO THESE PHRASES MEAN TO ME AS AN AMERICAN JEW AND A MEMBER OF HAVURAH IN 2011?  HOW DO I INCORPORATE THEM INTO MY LIFE IF I WISH TO BE A HOLY PERSON?

WHEN I LIVED IN ANOTHER CITY, AN INCIDENT HAPPENED DURING THE YOM KIPPUR MORNING SERVICE WHICH HAS STAYED IN MY MIND ALL THESE YEARS. THE YOUNG ASSISTANT RABBI PREACHED THE SERMON THAT MORNING. HE FOCUSED ON SOME OF THE STANDS WHICH HAD BEEN TAKEN BY THE URJ THAT YEAR, INCLUDING BEING IN FAVOR OF WELCOMING GAYS AND LESBIANS INTO OUR CONGREGATIONS AND SUPPORTING STEM CELL RESEARCH. THE MURMURINGS BEGAN IMMEDIATELY. 

“I DON’T WANT TO HEAR THIS ON YOM KIPPUR.” “I DON’T BELIEVE IN WHAT THE RABBI IS SAYING.” “POLITICS SHOULD NOT BE DISCUSSED ON YOM KIPPUR.” THERE WAS SO MUCH DISSENSION, THAT WHEN THE SERVICE ENDED, SOME PEOPLE WERE THREATENING TO LEAVE THE CONGREGATION.

IN TELLING YOU ABOUT THIS, I HAVE NOT DIVERGED FROM THE QUOTES WITH WHICH I BEGAN OR FROM MY WONDERING HOW THEY AFFECT ME TODAY.  I BELIEVE THERE IS NO BETTER TIME TO DISCUSS SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES THAN YOM KIPPUR. AFTER ALL, THIS IS THE DAY DURING WHICH WE ARE TO ASK OURSELVES WHAT WE HAVE DONE WRONG AND ASK FOR FORGIVENESS. THIS IS THE DAY DURING WHICH WE PONDER WHAT WE CAN DO TO MEET GOD’S COMMANDMENTS TO CARE FOR THE POOR, THE LONELY, THE OTHER.

JEWS ENTERED INTO A COVENANT WITH GOD LONG AGO.  FOR ME, THAT COVENANT BINDS ME TO CARE FOR OTHERS, NO MATTER HOW DIFFERENT THEY MAY BE FROM ME. I MUST FIGHT FOR EVERYONE’S FREEDOM, AS WE JEWS FOUGHT FOR OUR OWN FREEDOM WHEN WE WERE SLAVES IN EGYPT. IT SHOULD NOT MATTER IF THE OTHERS ARE RICH OR POOR, WHITE OR NOT WHITE,  JEWISH OR NOT JEWISH, ISRAELI OR PALESTINIAN. 

I MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO STAND UP FOR WHAT IS RIGHT IN THE LARGEST SENSE OF THAT WORD---BEING IN ACCORDANCE WITH WHAT IS MORAL AND JUST, BEING RIGHTEOUS.

WHEN WE MOVE AWAY FROM RIGHTOUSNESS, WE HAVE WAR, WE LOSE OUR MORAL COMPASS, WE FAIL TO SEE THE TRUTH. 

MY PRAYER THIS YOM KIPPUR FOR MYSELF AND FOR OUR CONGREGATION IS THAT WE SPEND THIS NEW YEAR CHOOSING LIFE AND LIVING OUR LIVES ACCORDING TO GOD’S COVENANT -- Judith Fales