Yom Kippur: 4 big ideas for Israelis to reflect on during the fast day

Published date04 October 2022
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
It is a special, unique, untouched envelope of time, in which the din of urgency gives way to the essential and the profound

It is an opportunity to set aside the explanations and justifications, the "how much" and the "how," and to concentrate on the "why" and the "where to."

The uniqueness of Yom Kippur is that it introduces into our everyday routine an external perspective on that routine. We step off the beaten path, as it were, and examine the path we have already taken, and the one we intend to take. There is a miracle of experience here: on a fixed date of the Jewish calendar we manage, year after year, to enter a space tailored for self-reflection.

But Yom Kippur is not just a personal day when every Jew reckons with him- or herself in the presence of God. It is also a public day that invites us to contemplate various aspects of our collective life, as Israelis. I would like to point out four of these public aspects for which Yom Kippur should serve as the final stop of an annual journey – a time of summing-up and reflection, as well as the starting point for a new year-long journey, as a group:

A. The public realm – between New York and Tel Aviv

Since we gathered together into our homeland and became a majority in Eretz Israel, the Jewish Yom Kippur has also become an Israeli Yom Kippur. The experience of the day for a Jew in New York or London is incomparable to the experience in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. It is a singular phenomenon: the cars are silenced, the roadways empty; commerce, industry and nonessential services come to a halt. And above all, it is a day when the giant flywheel of our lives – the media – stops turning.

The existential hustle and bustle is replaced by an existential silence. This is an amazing occurrence that dramatically expresses a very broad social consensus, with almost no element of coercion. Everyone is eager to respect the tradition: some for religious reasons, some for national reasons, some for cultural reasons.

How fascinating: Israeli society is mired in an ongoing crisis of disagreement on matters of religion and state – allegations of religious coercion from here and of liberal imperialism from there; yet Yom Kippur is the very heart of Israeli consensus.

It is an experience of quiet harmony, of shared identity – the eye of the storm in a simmering culture war that is approaching a boiling point. We often grapple with the question of what it means to be a "Jewish state." On Yom Kippur, the Israeli body politic...

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