September 18, 2015

A Yom Kippur confession: "I have sinned against Thee by criticizing Your Jewish leaders in a public forum"

Joshua LiebleinRebel Blogger

In a few days, it will be the Jewish Day of Atonement, also known more or less awkwardly as “Yom Kippur”.

On this day, Jews are expected to undergo a grueling fast, 25 hours in length, that not only forbids eating and drinking, but also showering and brushing your teeth, such that you are not only hungry and thirsty but also dirty and smelly by the end of it.

Even more humiliating is the fact that you must repeatedly and publicly confess your sins, even the ones you didn’t actually commit. (I envy the Catholics the privacy and sanctity of their nice little penalty boxes.)

I’ve never understood the need to designate a specific day for misery, public humiliation, and confessing your sins, because when you are a Jew, that’s what every day looks like. You can’t even get through a so-called happy holiday, like Purim (sort of a Jewish Halloween) without some rabbi injecting a helpful reminder that, just like it was back in ancient Persia (where the story of Purim took place), a wicked man with awful fashion sense is plotting to destroy the Jewish people, but if we make our charitable donations payable to UJA Federation Canada today, God will intervene and we will be saved… and if He doesn’t, you’ll still get a tax receipt.

Anyway, why should you care? Normally you shouldn’t, but this past week the Official Jews got very upset about a Jewish Defense League picket outside the home of prominent Liberal Jewish donor Barry Sherman and, in the same spirit of public condemnation I mentioned above, took the entire community to task for excessive partisanship in a series of Open Letters To The Jewish Community. 

Since I’m apparently responsible for the actions of a group I have no official affiliation with, and since the Official Jews have made their insecurity public by actually putting in print that political partisanship will “tear the community apart," I must follow their lead and make my own confession public as well.

My God and God of My Fathers, I have sinned against Thee by criticizing Your Jewish leaders in a public forum. When they accuse people who make their feelings known of sinat hinam and makhlokhet, things so terrible that they can’t even be said in English, they are not being overly sensitive or trying to protect the egos of powerful Jewish donors who, if not sufficiently recognized for their generosity, will take their donations elsewhere -- to the Episcopalians, perhaps.

I must also confess my sin of political partisanship, and my own continued lack of understanding why this is such a problem.

I am comforted, O Hashem, by the fact that Your leaders don’t seem to get why this is a problem either, because in their inspired editorial they want Jews to be involved in the political process (which does on occasion call for partisanship) but seem to draw the line at too much partisanship.

As is usually the case with Jewish writings, there is some hidden meaning here that escapes my dim faculties, but all I can come up with is that our leaders are telling us to engage in safe partisanship, the kind approved by the Official Jews. This includes but is not necessarily limited to voting Liberal, because You know better than anyone that when Liberals do things against Your interests, it must be part of Your Plan for the universe.

I pray, O Lord, not only for my own salvation this Yom Kippur but also for that of the Official Jews. Grant them wisdom, humility, and courage, because they could certainly use some!


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commented 2015-09-20 10:08:11 -0400
I knew we had that “Warning: Satire” disclaimer for a reason!
commented 2015-09-20 01:25:21 -0400
Fasting etc. is aimed at separating yourself from material concerns and fully concentrating on spiritual ones. Most of the time, we are involved in physical things – whether eating or working around the house or checking the Dow Jones.

That said, Joshua is quite right in mocking the Jewish Community leaders’ political preferences. This has nothing to do with religion, but with uneven distribution of power in the communities.
commented 2015-09-19 21:54:30 -0400
What is so gruelling about not eating or drinking for 25 hours?
commented 2015-09-19 21:54:30 -0400
What is so gruelling about not eating or drinking for 25 hours?
commented 2015-09-19 19:03:22 -0400
Joshua Lieblein — you may want to re-read the Books of Moses and discover the rationale for the Day of Atonement. It’s written there.