As fulfilling as it was to engage in Shavuot programs, a lot weighs on me. With COVID-19 continuing to ravage Black communities and racist violence all over the news, I almost feel like it’s Yom Kippur instead – the time when Jews are supposed to be most aware of their own mortality.
This week, I tell a friend I’d love to chat but actually I have to run Yom Kippur services are starting soon and I’ve got to repent for my sins before the gates are closed. She laughs. “Well, you’re gay, so you’ve definitely got a lot of repenting to do.”
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a concept I came to understand in my early adult years. But this was my understanding during my childhood:
by Rabbi Elisa F. Koppel I’m not ashamed to admit it: I like shoes. I’m not quite obsessive about them, but I probably have more pairs of shoes than I need, and I’m always finding new ones – you know, the ones that would be perfect with that one outfit.
When I started a new chapter in my life as a freshman at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!), I met people left and right.
As Jews, we approach every autumn with the understanding that a new year is starting and that the High Holy Days are up and coming. In between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we observe the Days of Awe, or the Yamim Noraim.
Turn the Torah scroll.
Turn back to Genesis
for the Rosh Hashana reading.
As the Torah scroll is rolled,
one person is on one side
pulling forward -
back to the beginning.
One person is on the other side
releasing the past.
Shabbat Shuvah is the Sabbath between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The name is derived from the opening word of the haftarah reading that urges us: Shuvah Yisrael ad Adonai Elohecha, “Return, O Israel, to the Eternal your God.”
If, as the Talmud tells us, the blasts of the shofar are meant to remind us of crying, (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 33A – specifically of Sisera’s mother – but that is another subject!), then I would offer the following.