Friday, October 7, 2011

Forgiveness, past, present, future

Yom Kippur will be here in just a few hours, and everything will become very, very quiet. The radio and television stations will go off the air until tomorrow evening. Everything will be closed. If you forgot your milk, the grocery store at the gas station that is open all day long, every day of the year, will be closed (so much for truth in advertising ...)

There will be little to no traffic. (A few years ago, when I took my walk on Yom Kippur morning, I stood in the middle of the road, for a few minutes, arms stretched out, and there was not one car in sight, nor sound of a car in the distance. Last year, unfortunately, two cars did pass, and disturbed this absoluted quiet that I was really looking forward to).

People who fast and who go to pray in the synagogue of their choice will have what to do to fill up their evening (when the holy day begins) and their day tomorrow. Those of us who do not fast or go to pray will need to think up other ways to pass this time. This is one of the downsides of being secular. Some will watch DVDs and/or play on the computer. Some will read the book they've been meaning to read for the last year. Others will sleep. Many, at least in the Tel Aviv area, will ride their bikes or roller blade on the completely quiet streets, and even walk with their babies in strollers on the Ayalon expressway.

This imposed silence, and shut down of the entire country has its strong points.
(1) It forces you to not buy anything for one day; therefore putting the tiniest of tiniest holes in capitalism (which of course might backfire since people might buy more than double the next day, after having had one day of withdrawal symptoms)
(2) For those of us who are secular, you have to figure out what to do on this day - kind of retrospection by force, which can also lead to interesting and creative ideas
(3) you DO get to actually READ that book you've wanted to for the last year, and see that film that you didn't find time for before
(4) the quiet is really nice.

Yom Kippur also gives us the chance to think about forgiveness, and being kind to others, and taking stock of the new year and the kind of person I want to be. It gives me the chance to think about what I would like to accomplish in the coming year; not what I want to own, but what I want to create and explore, how I want my relationships with others to develop.

On Yom Kippur, as well as the other holy days that we celebrate, I also think about my Palestinian neighbors, in the West Bank, but mostly nearby in Gaza, and think about how we can only celebrate our holy days when we have them locked up. Of course, this takes away from the essence of the day, and throws a rather very dark cloud over such concepts as forgiveness and atonement and goodness and new beginnings...

I am not a religious person, but I find it very, very, very hard to believe that God intended for us Jews to celebrate our holidays and keep to our traditions, while trampling the rights of others. No way...

To my Palestinian neighbors and friends, under closure and siege, who might read this:
I ask forgiveness for my country's immoral behavior concerning your right to rights
I ask forgiveness for my 'leaders' acts of cruelty, who are too frightened to give up control, power and land for peace and justice
I ask forgiveness for our constant turning a blind eye to your suffering of occupation and  oppression, for which we are responsible, and which we could end, if only we chose to do so

To my Jewish and Israeli friends who might read this:
May you be inscribed in the Book of Life
May we join together during this coming year to be a bit more responsible for all who live in this region, working harder to ensure rights for all
If you fast, may it be an easy and cleansing fast, that gives you strength to carry on

May we all know a much better year, that will bring fewer reasons for our need to atone for sins...

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