Reflections on Yom Kippur

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 10:46am -- Clergy

This week our Shabbat worship coincides with our Yom Kippur worship. My Dad calls this a red-letter day (since in the old Machzor the Shabbat liturgy is printed in red and is additional. It is, in fact, a red-letter day. If Shabbat is a day to stop and pause and reflect, Yom Kippur is the ultimate day of reflection.

The theme of the day is repentance, in Hebrew, Teshuvah, turning. The Rabbis tell us a lot about repentance. The first thing that strikes me each year is that for a religion so focused on ritual we are never asked to repent for neglecting those rituals. Nowhere in our machzor do we read, we are sorry for not coming to synagogue each Shabbat, we are sorry for not building a sukkah, we are sorry for eating bread on Passover. Even our ancient rabbis who spent so much time thinking about and classifying these rituals understood they were a means to an end. On the day of ultimate reflection, we are encouraged to look at how we let ourselves down, how we let our community down, how we let our family down, and how we could do more.

The second thing that strikes me is that our confessions are communal. We confess in the plural. Hundreds of years ago it was as clear as it is today, no one can be virtuous alone. We need each other, we need our community to help us be strong and help us do good.

Finally, I think about the nature of Yom Kippur. One of my professors said the High Holidays are like the movie Groundhog Day, each year we return confessing the same things. To this end, the great scholar Maimonides, asks what does true repentance look like? He tells us it is not acknowledging the wrongdoing, it is when the same situation faces us and we do something different.

As I think about the opportunity to do something different I think about the recent natural disasters. In the spirit of Yom Kippur how can we make a difference? If the true meaning of Yom Kippur is to reflect, to lift up our community, and to do something in the communal way, how can we as a congregation do that?

In recent weeks we have encouraged our community to make donations to specific organizations to help those affected by recent natural disasters. On this Erev Yom Kippur we are asking that you consider a significant donation to: "United for Puerto Rico" organized by Puerto Rico's First Lady, Beatriz Rossellø. Donations may be sent directly online to

Let’s make a strong impact as a community. We know that direct monetary donations are the true need. As we think about how we, as a community, can do Teshuvah know that you can make a difference, and we can make a difference together. There is power and strength in our numbers.  In this way may it come to pass that our words of T’fillah and our acts of Tzedakah will help our community be inscribed for a year of blessing in 5778.