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Yom Kippur


The number of months, with God, is 12 in the Book of God, the day that He created the heavens and the earth… The month postponed is an increase of unbelief whereby the unbelievers go astray; one year they make it profane, and hallow it another…

-Quran 9:36-37

The media were ready for blood during the days leading up to Yom Kippur this year, as the holiday fell on the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid el-Adha. Given the fraught atmosphere between Jews and Arabs that was created during the Gaza war this summer, there was concern that the usual small-scale Yom Kippur...

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As a young girl, I was very compliant. If I was told to do something, I generally did it; if I was told not to do something, I usually didn’t. Of course, there were exceptions – ah, the motorcycle ride – but I think of myself as a rule follower. On occasion, I may take on a leadership role to change the rules, but I generally don’t like to break them.

I was somewhat surprised, therefore, to find myself bent over, my head in the ark of an old synagogue in Kolin, Czech Republic. Around me, a tour guide and others were yelling at me in a variety of languages, including German:

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Our Mortality

Yom Kippur begins in the evening, and in preparation for the formal annulment of vows called Kol Nidre, the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and given to congregational leaders who hold them until Kol Nidre and its surrounding prayers have been offered. The result is that we speak this poignant prayer about the frailty of our moral will while looking into an empty cabinet—a cabinet strikingly similar to the one that will hold our bodies when we die. Indeed, the word aron means both "ark" and "casket"—and it pushes us to ponder the shortness of life, and the...

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Although we may not think of Judaism as a religion of confession, we often are called to profess our sins – privately, between oneself and God. Indeed, the rabbis tell us we cannot attain teshuvah (return, redemption) without it. Some complete a daily accounting; others rely on the rituals of Yom Kippur to perform this holy task.

This poem is my vision of how I stand before God – in all my doubt, with all my praise and my sins – to offer my confession, and so return.

I dance - And rest In the palm of Your hand. I thought to stay For a moment Or a day, At least until I...

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My recollections of childhood High Holidays in Brooklyn are suffused with images of my parents’ cerebral palsy disability. Although I attended Jewish day school, we were not regular Shabbat shul-goers. My parents were physically exhausted from the work week and could not climb the long flight of stairs at our synagogue without assistance. On Rosh HaShanah, however, my father and I did attend services, and on Yom Kippur, my mother joined us.

We belonged to a small, nondescript congregation of mostly lower and middle-income families and senior citizens. My parents were an institution...

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