22nd September 2015
Erev Yom haKippurim – Eve of the Day of Atonement
Dear Friends, Did you know that Yom Kippur has nothing to do with food? I know that the Jewish world is obsessed with fasting, “Well over the fast” “Easy fast”, the morning television programmes are full of dieticians telling us how to eat leading up to the fast but few talk about the purpose, the reason behind the fast. We are supposed to be so deeply within our contemplation and prayer that we do not feel the need for physical sustenance since we are filled with spiritual sustenance.
Traditionally we ask for forgiveness from our fellow man as well as from the Almighty, we take the sins of the world upon ourselves, not just our own, and promise to be better people – to be more tolerant, less arrogant, to open our hearts and minds to others – it is most certainly not only the obvious ones of murder, blasphemy, coveting ones neighbours belongings and adultery. Indeed our prayers go far deeper than that – we beg forgiveness for our thoughts. Does this mean we get a clean slate and begin all over again – not in Judaism, the forgiveness comes with a condition – we must create a new reality without the stains that mar our lives and the lives of those around us.
Our world today is one of fear and uncertainty, especially if you are a Jew yet we are told to be tolerant. There is no mention of revenge, only of tolerance.
This has been a year of paradoxes. Saudi Arabia heads the Human Rights Council; Russia (and most other leaders) back the vile regime of President Assad for fear of what will replace him, accept his killing of hundreds of thousands, yet find it rational to lambaste Israel for defending herself; Israelis rush to provide aid and sustenance to those fleeing oppression in Moslem countries yet are labelled Apartheid; the IDF created a field hospital on the Syrian border to treat the most severely injured in the Syrian civil war yet the UN claims Israeli medical system is anti-Moslem; Christian leaders criticise Israel which is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian community is thriving and growing yet remain silent about the dire situation of the Christians in the PA; young Palestinians throw stones and Molotov cocktails on Israeli civilians yet when we attempt to impose firmer laws to deter them we are criticised; Palestinian police beat a 15 year old half to death – on camera – yet the media is silent! The list is unending and deeply distressing.
We are not perfect and I am deeply ashamed of the behaviour of our Chief Rabbinate this week in their proclamation against the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. They claim that they are proselytising. I am ashamed at such a public show of lack of tolerance and diplomacy. The ICEJ is conceivably the finest organisation of Christians who support Israel through thick and thin, bring thousands upon thousands of Christians to Israel, particularly now at Tabernacles time and all our Prime Ministers and Presidents have proudly taken part in their events.I beg forgiveness from all of our dear friends, past and present leaders of the ICEJ, for forgiveness.
I would hate you to think there are no rays of sunshine in this troublesome year. While the UK Labour Party elected Jeremy Corbyn, Australia has a new Minister, Josh Frydenberg, sworn in on a Chumash – Hebrew Biblehttp://www.timesofisrael.com/australian-minister-sworn-in-with-hebrew-bible/
IsraAid workers discover “To the refugees it doesn’t matter that I am Israeli” Israelis continue to give sustenance to the world http://www.israel21c.org/to-the-refugees-it-doesnt-matter-that-were-israeli/?utm_content=buffer22695&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
We must never lose sight of who we are. Many have tried, some succeeded, to dehumanise Jews so that no-one would care when we are killed. Others didn’t kill us, they simply stop us performing our rites and traditions. Many Jews are in danger of losing their inherited memory, inherited traditions, inherited identity by joining the hedonistic, egotistic society of today, unwilling to give up one day a week, a month, a year without shopping. We do not have to forego even one joyful or fun activity to be a traditional Jew. We must be proud and give our children the genetic justice that is inherent in true Judaism.
To remind us of who we are this beautiful video shows the traditions passed from grandparents to children-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8_8z2quiBs&feature=youtu.be
And so to Jerusalem. Take all of the issues above and bring them to one simple fact – Jerusalem. Jews do not claim to be the sole owners of the Temple Mount, we do not wish to desecrate the Moslem Holy places, far from it we choose to honour their rights, all we ask is that they honour ours. The Temple Mount is Jewish and Christian too.
Qanta Ahmed provides a beam of tolerant light “This is my prayer in these Days of Awe. This is my appeal, as I reflect and account for my actions. That for each and every Jewish person at these times of holy worship, reflection and redemption, we as Muslims might welcome them as gently and wholeheartedly at the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa on Mount Moriah as I was once welcomed at the Kotel.” http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/at-al-aqsa-a-sentinel-moment-for-islam/#.VgBxb7FTRUk.facebook
The music of Yom Kippur is famous. Kol Nidre which opens the prayers has been sung by many famous stars, from Andy Williams, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis – and their renditions are exceptional, the spirituality of the music rising above their lack of Hebrew. Al Jolson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTufuWn3jv8 sings the traditional Ashkenaz niggun; Moroccan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SjVRAIDbz4; Sefardi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lh5rVwS8_Q; indeed we come in every colour, a veritable rainbow, yet we all, from whence we came home, turn to Jerusalem in prayer and lamentation.
Unetaneh Tokef sung by Lt Col. Shai Abrahamson expresses our prayers – with translation https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=21&v=89r_N4hxw7M
Finally, a niggun from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. It is so familiar, often used between the words of the Priestly Blessing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7dLIT4sRQk
Perhaps the best example of what Judaism is about comes on Yom Kippur. While we beg forgiveness from the Almighty for our general sins, if at any time we publicly or privately embarrassed someone by our words or actions, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we do not ask for G-ds forgiveness, we must go to that person and ask for their forgiveness.One continues to ask for forgiveness three times, after thrice asking for forgiveness they remain adamant in their refusal the sin reverts to them. There is so much to be learned from that simple tradition/rule.
If I have in any way offended you or hurt you, if my writings have been sharper than they should or if you felt indignant, exasperated or piqued by my words I beg forgiveness. I promise to do better in the future. Although I do not know many of you I feel close to you. I love your responses to my outpourings, love the contact with you all.
As I look out over our veranda, Jerusalem before me, the pomegranate tree has several fruits hanging from its branches, having revived from our Greek sojourn; the little lemon tree given to me by my Cardiff girlfriends has loads of fruits, tiny and green but aplenty, the kumquat tree is filled with blossom and the little orange tree, well the little orange tree is a bit like the Jews – although it lost all its leaves and seemed unable to revive it is now filled with greenery and ready to produce juicy fruits next year.
From tonight no cars will travel on the lanes, streets, highways and byways of Israel. A wonderful silence broken only by the delighted shrieks of children riding their bicycles freely on the empty roads. That silence that was cruelly broken in 1973 as Israel was attacked on the one day our enemies knew an entire nation would be at prayer.
It was conceivably the most traumatic of wars waged on Israel, when every border was attacked.http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/isdf/text/barjoseph.html May those who lost their lives be remembered and rest in peace.
I wish you well over the fast – may it be filled with contemplation and may your lives be enhanced and advanced by your thoughts over this day of awe.
With love from Jerusalem.
If the media does not inform us we must inform the media
Sheila’s blog http://shabbatshalom-theviewfrommyveranda.blogspot.com/
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