Pirke Avot 2:14--“Rabban Yochanan said to his students: Go out and see which is a bad way which a person should avoid. R. Eliezer said: A bad eye. R. Yehoshua said: A bad friend. R. Yossi said: A bad neighbor. R. Shimon said: One who borrows and does not pay back. One who borrows from a person is as one who borrows from G-d, as it says, ‘A wicked person borrows and does not repay, but the Righteous One is gracious and gives’ (Psalms 37:21). R. Elazar said: A bad heart. He said to them: I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach over your words, for included in his words are your words.”
September 29, 2017
9 Tishrei 5778
Erev Yom Kippur
Tonight begins our holiest day of the year and its toughest. Tonight and tomorrow we commanded to look deep inside ourselves to examine the deeds done and words spoken during the past year. No one ever said t’shuvah—repentance is easy. I am certainly not immune to errors done or ill-spoken words. We are told to go and ask for forgiveness from those we wronged, but the Yom Kippur liturgy also offers an opportunity for public apology. Therefore, I am asking for your forgiveness for hurtful words or actions I may have done, knowingly or not, in jest or without thought, yesterday or long ago. And, at the same time, I forgive those who have knowingly or not, by word or by deed, hurt or wronged me over the last year. Maybe using this forum is too impersonal or generic, but no less so than reading the prayer of forgiveness at worship except there we do it in a sanctuary and before the Ark and the Torah.
Yom Kippur is not only about repairing the breach with others, but also healing the broken parts that exist within yourself. We all have faults. I have faults. I don’t always say the right word or my sarcasm and humor gets in my way of relationships, or I fail to compliment or acknowledge in a timely matter. On Yom Kippur, we get to consider and reconsider ourselves with prayers and meditations. Whether it is in the “Al chet shechatanu—for the sins that we have sinned,” or in our petition of God in the Avinu Malkeinu or when we remember that we are not perfect and have sinned, the opportunity for healing is there. Isn’t that what we want? At the conclusion of Neilah at the end of Yom Kippur, we want to feel as if we have healed the wounds we may have opened and made ourselves at one with God and those around us. As I said, it isn’t easy, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Even in the midst of our journey tomorrow, we shouldn’t forget the blessings in our lives. These blessings aren’t the same for all of us, but many of us are blessed by some: family, friends, health, recovery from illness, milestones, celebrations, and more. Take a moment and count the blessings in your life and bring them with you to services tonight and tomorrow. Let them strengthen you as you walk the journey of Yom Kippur.
Let me finish with this prayer by Julie Silver, an incredible Jewish musician, that she posted on her FaceBook page:
My Prayer For Fasting
Julie Silver 5778
Do not wish me an easy fast.
Let my fast be difficult
Let me remember the hungry people of the world who have no choice, no voice.
Let me understand that starvation and emptiness exist even when there is plenty of food on the table.
And if my fast causes me pain, let me sit with the pain.
If my head throbs, let me handle it.
If my stomach grumbles, let me welcome the sound as I welcome the shofar blast.
Let my fast be the call.
Let my life on earth be the response.
When you light your candles this evening to begin your Yom Kippur, light one for yourself that it may guide you toward true repentance and complete healing of your heart and soul. Light the other candle and let its light guide you toward forgiveness from all whom you have hurt either by word or deed.
Shabbat Shalom and G’mar Chatimah Tovah—May you be sealed with goodness in the Book of Life,
Rabbi Jon Adland