Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yom Kippur Reflections

It's Yom Kippur again, and I have a lot to think about this year, with so many changes and some regrets looking backward. It just shows me that one never knows what is coming around blind corners, and this can be to one's advantage as well as to her detriment.
Yom Kippur is the most solemn and significant holiday of the Jewish calendar. It is, as most people know, the Day of Repentance, but what does that mean for people who do not, as Christians do, believe humans to be born sinful and in need of salvation?
Rather than believing that human beings are sinful, inherently flawed creatures, Jews think of sin as "missing the mark," as an arrow misses its target. Our actions go astray, we make the wrong choices, or something not intended in a negative way has negative consequences we have not foreseen. At any given moment, we have these choices before us; sometimes we make the correct ones, sometimes not, but it is fully in our power and our responsibility to make them. This is very different from saying we are powerless without a deus ex machina to sweep down and correct our inevitably corrupt and broken lives.
This holiday gives us the opportunity to mend our relationships ourselves, to repair any broken links in our lives or to start over again. In the middle ages, when many Jews were forced to foreswear their faith and become Christians or die, Yom Kippur allowed them to tell God, sotto voce, as it were, that they didn't really mean the oaths the had sworn, that they were still Jews, under the surface.
In the modern world, Yom Kippur is a very psychologically-oriented day, when one mulls over what in her character she would like to change. I'd like to become less brittle, less stubborn, less prideful, less fearful, more apt to let my light shine. When I think about the years I have wasted because I have been afraid of one thing or another, it makes me angry at myself. I have to keep in mind my father, how he lived those last 5 unabashed and happy years to their fullest. With any luck, I have much more than that, time to do good things for others, to write, to love, to give.
Thanks for checking in here and being part of my life, all year round!


marly youmans said...

"This is very different from saying we are powerless without a deus ex machina to sweep down and correct our inevitably corrupt and broken lives."

Interesting to see how you see Christians.

"Unabashed" is quite right--lovely description.

And best of luck to you in those future years!

Robbi said...

I hope I am not being simplistic or unfair in my view of Christianity. Actually, during my time at Hollins, I was very attracted to Christianity, and learned quite a bit about it. Perhaps that's because of Anne Case's wonderful medieval lit class. She was a very rigorous and committed teacher, and what a fascinating subject! I'm sure my former classmate Mary B. would agree!