Magazine article Tikkun

For Our Sins

Magazine article Tikkun

For Our Sins

Article excerpt


As we approach the anniversary of the second intifada, the themes of the High Holidays have special resonance for Jews of all political stripes. I say this knowing that most of us are not comfortable with the blunt language of the High Holiday liturgy, which reminds us of the human capacity for sin and demands that we repair our conduct and change our ways. The High Holiday prayers do not deal with sin in an abstract or philosophical manner; in the Al Cheyt prayers, repeated ten times during the traditional Yom Kippur service, the sins listed are the stuff of everyday life. The rabbis were practical people who knew that it made no sense to talk about sin unless one concentrated on the specific vices to which we are all so prone-deception, slander, envy, and gossip.

It is difficult for us to truly understand the concept of sin, because the psycho-babble of modern culture explains everything in terms of impersonal forces-social, economic, psychological, and genetic-that release us from individual responsibility. Furthermore, like Jews of all ages, we are experts at self-justification and eternally resistant to change. We recognize righteousness only in our own beliefs and are quick to pigeonhole those around us, enemies and friends alike, assigning them to impermeable categories that permit us to ignore what they say without truly listening.

With Israel living in the shadow of war, with terror erupting day after day, with casualties mounting on both sides of the conflict, one might hope that this is the time for Jews on both sides of the political divide to overcome their natural inclinations and do what Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur ask us to do: to look within and engage in serious and searching moral accounting. My experience is that in times of crisis, we are more resistant than ever to changing ourselves, scrutinizing our innermost thoughts, and confronting our own sins. Nonetheless, given all that is at stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, let me suggest additions to the Al Cheyt prayers for Jews of the Left and Jews of the Right.

For Jews of the Left:

For the sin we committed by making excuses for Arab terror and blaming Israel for the sins of others.

We perfunctorily condemn suicide bombings, but immediately shift the blame to Israel by talking of Israeli occupation. We tend to suggest, at least by implication, that the terror is somehow Israel's fault. …

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