Three Men with Whom I'd like to Spend the High Holidays

By Rudin, James | National Catholic Reporter, September 22, 2006 | Go to article overview

Three Men with Whom I'd like to Spend the High Holidays


Rudin, James, National Catholic Reporter


During the upcoming Jewish High Holidays--Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)--Jews will gather in large numbers in synagogues throughout-the world to participate in special services that welcome the religious year, 5767.

The joyous two-day Rosh Hashanah observance, marked with distinctive music, prayers and food, begins on Friday evening Sept. 22 and concludes 48 hours later. It's a holiday brimming with hope for a sweet and peaceful new year as well as a strong commitment to assuming life's responsibilities. Apples and honey, the traditional Rosh Hashanah foods, convey that theme.

The fast on the solemn Day of Atonement starts on Sunday night Oct. 1 and continues for 26 hours. The lengthy Yom Kippur services, when Jews absent themselves from work and school, call for recognition of one's shortcomings and a demand for personal repentance.

Because it's customary to celebrate the High Holidays with family and friends, this year I publicly invite three well-known people to join me for services: the film star Mel Gibson, Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah, and Hamas leader Khaled Meshal. I strongly believe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have important messages for each of them.

The anti-Semitic and sexist remarks a drunken Gibson made in Los Angeles following his arrest in July are clear signs, as he has publicly acknowledged, that he needs to seek atonement. Attending Yom Kippur services would aid Gibson in overcoming his serious ethical failures.

He would be compelled to answer the three demanding questions that are the core of the High Holidays. What have I done with my life during the past year? Where am I now with my life and, after seeking atonement for my sins, how can I move forward in the New Year?

Mr. Gibson would learn the gates of repentance are always open to those seeking genuine amends for the harm and hurt they have caused.

Mr. Nasrallah could also benefit from attending Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. He has proudly proclaimed: "We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable.... We are going to win because they love life and we love death." He urges Hezbollah members in their confrontation with Israel to seek death as Islamic martyrs. His eerie message is "Long live death! …

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