I’d like to welcome all of you to temple on this Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. I’d particularly like to recognize some very special guests, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, sitting over there in the third row. Welcome! On this beautiful fall day, we come together to atone for our sins of the past year—some more egregious than others, am I right?
Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement,” and so it is that on this day we turn to those we have wronged and acknowledge the pain we have caused them. Maybe you said something in the heat of anger to a family member or a friend. Maybe you weren’t there for them when they needed you, due to your own selfishness. Maybe you’ve been conducting government business on your private email account, after your maniac father spent months yelling, “Lock her up!” at another woman for doing the exact same thing. We all have our crosses to bear. (Shout out to the gentiles and former gentiles in the house!)
Maybe you’ve used your newfound political connections to further your convict father’s business interests. Maybe you’re being investigated for possible collusion with Russia to sway the United States election. Not to worry, because God is merciful, even if in your hubris you claimed you could broker peace in the Middle East. (God also has a sense of humor, so He must have gotten a good laugh out of that one.) No matter what you’ve done, it’s not too late to say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
Sometimes the things we must repent are the things we didn’t do or say. Remaining silent in the face of evil makes you a coward, and that goes double when Nazis are involved. As my grandmother says, “I didn’t survive the Holocaust to watch Nazis march through an American city as though they were on their way to a damn luau.” Silence reeks worse than gefilte fish, or a cheap perfume before Nordstrom drops the brand.
The Torah tells us there is no way around repentance. You must admit that you’ve been wrong and do what you can to set things right with any person or people you may have hurt. That may include your parent, your child, your neighbor, transgender soldiers, DACA recipients, victims of sexual assault, the LGBT community, people of color, immigrants, women, and anyone who needs health care. I’m not trying to guilt you here; you’ll get enough of that from your mother-in-law when she finds out you didn’t use her kugel recipe this year. I’m just conveying the dictates of God.
In the Torah, the Jewish people are told, “The tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: You shall practice self-denial.” This is why we fast on Yom Kippur, putting aside our physical desires (because, man, that kugel does look amazing) for the sake of spiritual fulfillment.
Self-denial can be practiced in other ways, too. Maybe you stop claiming that your pussy-grabbing father is an advocate for women just because he’s letting Omarosa watch Netflix on her tablet three steps from the Oval Office. Maybe you decide that if you tighten your belt a little this year, you can make do without that half-billion dollar investment from Qatar. Maybe you simply deny yourself the satisfaction of thinking you’re the savior, the moderating force, when in fact, deep down, you know you are the swamp.
I wish you all an easy fast, and health and happiness for the coming year. L’shana tova.