Sep 17, 2010 3:02 pm


To be Jewish means standing with the community before G-d and asking for forgiveness and mercy for failure to keep promises. The inter-generational conflict is the theme in both movies. The 1939 movie intuits the ultimate fate of European Jewry. The more optimistic 1980s one presents a very American Jewish return to the flock. The non Jewish wife pushes her husband to return.

What has not changed is the warm welcome afforded both returnees. Even in the bible, Jewish parents are notorious softies. Indeed, Jewish prayer repeatedly demands that G-d be as merciful as a parent"because you created them and you know their weaknesses." Yes, lawyers could do worse than read the Jewish High Holidays prayer book.

May you be sealed in the book of life.

Yom Kippur Guide for the Perplexed
Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought", September 15, 2010
Assembled from various Jewish Sages

1. Yom Kippur is observed on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, which is an Akkadian word for forgiveness and Genesis. Ten has special significance in Judaism: G-D's abbreviation is the tenth Hebrew letter (Yod); Ten attributes of God – Divine perfection – in the Creation; Ten Commandments; Ten Plagues; Ten reasons for blowing the Shofar; Ten percent gift to God (tithe); Ten days of repentance; The Ten Martyrs (Rabbis who were tortured/murdered by the Roman Empire); Ten generations between Adam & Noah and ten generations between Noah & Abraham; a Ten worshippers quorum (Minyan) required for a Jewish prayer; etc.

2. Yom Kippur is a Happy Jewish Holiday, replacing vindictiveness and rage with peace-of-mind and peaceful co-existence between God and human-beings, as well as among human-beings. It highlights forgiveness, pre-conditioned upon genuine repentance. Thus, Yom Kippur enhances family, social and national cohesion. It underlines unison, as synagogues become a platform for both righteous and sinning folks – all of whom are fallible. Yom Kippur emphasizes God's Covenant with the Jewish People, ending God's rage over the sin of the Golden Calf and commemorating the day of Abraham's circumcision, which initialed God's covenant with the Jewish People.

3. Yom (Day of) Kippur constitutes a Jewish contribution to humanity. It highlights the most essential human attributes, which are prerequisites to constructive leadership: humility (as featured in the Netaneh Tokef prayer), soul-searching, admitting fallibility, confessing wrong-doing, asking and granting forgiveness, accepting responsibility, collective responsibility and magnanimity. Yom Kippur is not driven by punishment, but by behavioral-enhancement.

4. The Hebrew spelling of "fast" (öí/öåí) – abstinence from food - highlights the substance of Yom Kippur. The Hebrew word for "fast" is the root of the Hebrew word for "reduction" and" shrinking" (öîöåí), which alludes to one's "spiritual diet," clearing the body and the mind. It is also the root of the Hebrew words for "slave" (öîéú) and "eternity" (öîéúåú) – enslavement to God, but not to human-beings. At the same time, "fast" is the root of òöîé (being oneself), òöåí, òöîä, òöîàåú (awesome, power, independence), which are gained through the process of fasting, soul-searching and submission to God.

5. The Hebrew word Kippur ëéôåø (atonement/repentance) is a derivative of the Biblical words Kaporet ëôåøú - which covered the Holy Ark at the Sanctuary - and Kopher ëåôø, which covered Noah's Ark and the Holy Altar at the Temple. The reference is to a spiritual cover (dome), which does not cover-up, but separates between the holy and the secular, between spiritualism and materialism. The Kippa ëéôä (skullcap, Yarmulke), which covers one's head during prayers, reflects a spiritual dome. Thus, Yom Kippur constitutes the cover (Dome) of the Ten Days of Atonement (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), separating them from the rest of the year.

6. Teshuvah-úùåáä is the Hebrew word for repentance, sharing the same root of the Hebrew word for Return ùéáä – returning to root/positive values, morality, and behavior) – and Shabbat ùáú. Yom Kippur is also called Shabbat Shabbaton - the highest level Sabbath. The last Sabbath before Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Teshuvah (based on Hosea's prophesy, chapter 4). While the Sabbath is the soul of the week, Yom Kippur is the soul of the year.

7. The prayer of Veedooi-åéãåé (confession/confirmation/reaffirmation in Hebrew) is recited Ten times during Yom Kippur, re-entrenching genuine repentance and plea for forgiveness. The prerequisites for forgiveness are the expression & exercise (talking & walking) of confession (assuming full-responsibility), repentance and significantly altering one's behavior. King Saul sinned only once – ignoring the commandment to annihilate the Amalekites – but was banished from the crown and killed, because he raised mitigating circumstances, while responding to Samuel's accusation. King David sinned twice (The "Bat-Sheba Gate" and the "Census Gate"), but was forgiven, because he accepted full-responsibility and unconditional blame and the death sentence (as expressed by Nathan the Prophet), which was promptly rescinded.

8. The initial prayer on the eve of Yom Kippur, Tefilah Zakah, enables each worshipper to announce universal forgiveness. While transgressions between human-beings and G-D are forgiven summarily via prayers, transgressions among human-beings require explicit forgiveness. Ill-speaking of other persons may not be forgiven.

9. The Memorial Candle, commemorating one's parent(s), is lit during Yom Kippur. It reaffirms Honor Thy Father and Mother, providing another opportunity to ask forgiveness of one's parent(s), as well as asking forgiveness on their behalf.

10. The Scroll of Jonas is read on Yom Kippur, demonstrating that repentance and forgiveness is universal to all Peoples, commanding one to assume responsibility, to get involved socially-politically, to sound the alarm when wrong-doing is committed anywhere in the world, to display compassion to all peoples and to adhere to Faith and Optimism, in defiance of all odds. It behooves good folks to roll up their sleeves, lest evil triumphs!

11. A long sound of the Shofar concludes Yom Kippur. It commemorates the covenant with God (the almost-sacrifice of Isaac), the receipt of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, Liberty and anti-slavery (Jubilee) and the opening of Gods gates of forgiveness. The Hebrew root of Shofar ùåôø means to enhance/improve oneself (ùôø). A Hebrew synonym for Shofar is Keseh ëñä, which also means cover-Kaporet-Kippur.

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