Repentance on Yom Kippur


Repentance on Yom Kippur


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Yom Kippur is about being Human

By Larry Fine

Whereas we normally think of Yom Kippur of that inevitable time of the year when we must refrain from fressing, stop our daily activities and for one day, twenty five hours, do basically nothing, no eating, nothing except go to the synagogue. It seems a day with no real purpose other than it comes once a year and we must endure it. It is to many a boring day, a day spent in the synagogue listening to the chazon, schmuzzing with a few friends, or taking a little walk to get some fresh air, and perhaps a nice nap.

But the concept of Yom Kippur is a bit deeper than just that. Yom Kippur is a day that we acknowledge to G-d that we are human, and, yes, as humans, we are wont to err and even sin. Man was created by G-d with the propensity to do evil and to think only about himself.

This ability to sin was programmed into man by his creator in order that he sin. Not that G-d truly desires that G-d sin, but rather as a testing point of man's honesty. To be human, is to error, but to be holy is to recognize that a mistake has been make and to act upon this mistake to make ammends.

The purpose of this short article is not to pursue a political agenda but rather to use it as a lesson in human learning. Case in point: George Bush, perhaps the worst president that the United States has ever seen. Here is a man who dedicated perhaps 85% of his time and effort the 'war on terrorism' with another 7% to the Katrina huricane disaster and cover up of the national mess. This man has botched up the US economy so bad that it is possible that the US will be soon in a long recession. Why? Because George Bush has almost totally ignored the real burning problems of the US which are the sad state of social security, the sorry mess of the American manufacturing and factories who have slowly closed down, the fact that Americans prefer to buy foreign automobiles and appliances over that of domestic manufacture – all this is money lost. What did Bush do? Nothing! But what is worse is that he does not see or admit any error on his part.

He pursued Saddaam Hussien who he suspected of having weapons of mass destruction and after years of searching the US forces came to the conclusion that there were none. He executed Sadaam for no real purpose; Sadaam was no worse than other dicators in other countries. Why did Bush not pursue them also? At least Saddaam kept the religious fundamentalist down in his country. Now with Saddaam out of the way, every crazy Islamic fundamentalist is organizing an army to fight the US collation forces. This is costing the Americans some one billion dollars a day.

With all the failures on the part of George Bush, even Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, criticized Bush as an entire failure for not doing anything to help the American Economy.

    "You know, God bless him, bless his heart, president of the United States, a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name the subject," as she was quoted by Associated Press.

Of course she is correct, but you would think that good old George would own up to his mistakes, or at least make a statement that he erred – or perhaps was off by a bit? But no, that is not proper for a president to admit his mistakes. Compare him to the model of the righteous leader: King David, who in his book of psalms lamented before man and G-d that his sins are always in front of him. King David, the righteous king, the prototype of the righteous man, from who the righteous messiah will come, is always aware of his sins! But George Bush can not acknowledge any mistakes.

As mentioned above, the purpose of this article is not to put down put George Bush, but rather to point out a rather particular human quality called covering up one's mistakes. No one wants to either admit that he made a mistake, and even more so that it should become public knowledge. Not only does this characteristic apply when dealing with others, it deals even moreso when we deal with ourselves. We have a inborn desire to see ourselves as good, even righteous people.

Yet we are all humans, created by the hand of G-d and programmed with the very real ability to sin. G-d knows this, He is responsible for our being able to sin. We do not find animals sinning. They were created to be an animal and that is all they can do. They can not break down the barriers of what is proper 'animal' behavior and become criminal; only man can do this.

Yet G-d in His infinite wisdom realizes that man is given to the temptations which He has created for him. The sin is not the worst part of sinning, worse than sin is the denial of sin.

For this reason Yom Kippur was given to us. Yom Kippur is a day in which we may reflect on our actions and misdeeds to see where indeed we erred and that we should regret them.

To sin is human and to forgive is divine. Man sins, but when he acknowledges it and beseeches G-d to forgive him, G-d will grant forgiveness. G-d does not expect us to be totally righteous, for He programmed us to come into temptation and on occasion to sin, but He does expect that we at least be honest and own up to our mistakes, to admit that we messed up.

When we can do this, then the holiness of the day of Yom Kippur grants us an atonement. When we search into our hearts and examine our deeds, see our sins and truthfully regret them, when we take it upon us to do better, to avoid temptation, then G-d is pleased, then He gives us the good decree that we so much desire.

May we all be intellectually honest, may we admit our sins and mistakes, and may we have the inner strength to ask forgiveness both from man and from G-d. If we do, we may rely on G-d's goodness to give us a good year.

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For more on Yom Kippur, see our Yom Kippur Archives


from the August 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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