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Yom Kippur: It’s a Matter of Life and Death

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01.10.2020

Yom Kippur always leaves us ample time to ponder and reflect — not merely on the weighty matters of our misdeeds of the past year or our fate for the year ahead, but on the deeper and broader meaning of t’shuvah, of return and renewal.

Indeed, the prayers and poetry, literature and liturgy, of Yom Kippur are meant to disturb and cause discomfort. They summon us to take account of our own violations and take stock of what it means to be a person of character. They force us to meditate on our relationships to one another and on the relationship between the Jewish people and the society we inhabit — between our community’s values and their universal application and practice.

If we’re being honest, this is by design: there’s an inherent tension built into Yom Kippur. In the morning, our t’filah is focused on the highly ritualized Temple service, the traditions of sacrifice and purification. Yet we approach it having heard the call of Isaiah, who proclaimed that ritual on its own is insufficient, that religious devotion means little unless it is rooted in the pillars of ethical behavior and moral imagination, unless it is translated into action.

Then in the afternoon, we reach the mincha Torah reading that delineates prohibited sexual relationships, the purpose of which is maintaining the sanctity and integrity of the Jewish........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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