Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord?
At Jewish Newport
September 27, 2020
Thank you to Rabbi Marc Mandel, Geroge Aronson,
and Beth Ginsburg Levine
One of the great insights of the Yamim Noraim, the High Holy days, is that we pray for forgiveness as a community. This is especially evident in the Viddui, the Confessional Prayer, where we collectively acknowledge our misdeeds,
ָאַשְמנוָּ,בַגְדנוּ,גַזְלנוּ,דַבְרנוּדִפי,הֱעִוינוּ,וִהְרַשְענוּ,זְדנוָּ ,חַמְסנוּ ָטַפְלנוּ,שֶקר,ָיַעְצנוָּרע,כַזְבנוּ,לְצנוּ,מַרְדנוּ,נַאְצנוּ,סַרְרנוּ,עִוינוּ, ָפַשְענוּ,צַרְרנוּ,ק ִשינוּ עֶרף,ר ַש ְענוּ,ש ַח ְתנוּ, ִת ַע ְבנוּ,ָת ִעינוּ, ִת ְע ָת ְענוּ.
We have trespassed; We have dealt treacherously... We have been stiff necked; We have acted wickedly; We have dealt corruptly...We have gone astray; We have led others astray.
The upside of this is that we can help each other to become better. But does that mean Judaism believes in collective guilt and punishment?
This opens a whole can of worms. Should a nation or group be blamed for the misdeeds (real or perceived) of some of its members? This can be rationalization for genocide.
We saw what happened in the Soviet Union, where groups of people or entire nations were declared enemies and sent into exile or worse. We saw what happened in the Holocaust. We see examples in the world today.
The creators of our liturgy were aware of this. It’s clear that we pray communally for forgiveness for the sins we commit against the Almighty.
But this does not get us off the hook as individuals. We pray individually for those to be forgiven, and only another person can forgive us those sins.
Thanks to George Aronson, the video features excerpts from the Selikhot service. The link is at https://youtu.be/-HaahnO7kww
Is there hope for us? Rabbi Marc Mandel, of Touro Synagogue Newport, shares some thoughts about the message of Yom Kippur,
"Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord" (Psalm 24)
“Why do we recite this Psalm several times during the High Holy Day prayers?
“The Torah relates, when Moses descended from Mount Sinai, and he smashed the Ten Commandments, God said to him, ‘Now you must fix the situation. Find some more tablets, and climb back up the mountain so we can start over.’ The rabbis teach us that the process to repair the Ten Commandments took place during the months of Elul and Tishrei, and was completed on Yom Kippur.
“I believe the message we derive from this information is clear. We all break things at times, but we can repair them. It might be difficult, like climbing a mountain can be, but that is our job as mature and responsible individuals.
“The Talmud tells us that Yom Kippur is one of the happiest days of the year. Why? There is no greater satisfaction or fulfillment than repairing something that you broke. When we live with hope and confidence that we can repair our world, we can truly find happiness.”
Jewish Newport wishes you an easy fast. May your repairs make you a better person, and the world a better place. May you be inscribed in the book of life.