On Yom Kippur morning haftarah we read is from the Book of Isaiah. It is a dynamic reading. Right at the beginning we read, “Build up a highway! Clear a road! Remove all obstacles from the road of my people!” The painting above is part of my “haftarah series”, in a style inspired by Marc Chagall. Images from the haftarah text appear in the picture. The blues evoke “A spring whose waters will not fail” (ch 58:12) and there is “light that bursts through the dawn”(ch 58: 8). Click on the image to enlarge it.
Isaiah’s message isn’t focused on the self. Rather it is focused on social justice. The prophet tells says, “The fast you perform today will not make your voice heard on high.” (58:4) …”Loosen the bindings of evil, … shatter every yoke of slavery. Break your bread for the starving and bring the dispossessed home. When you see a person naked, clothe him; do not ignore your kin. And then your light will break out like the sunrise…”(58: 6,7)
Yom Kippur is a difficult day for many of us. We fast (some of us start weaning ourselves off caffeine a week early) and participate in prayers of fear and longing. Many of us are attending ZOOM services which is challenging in its own way. The prayers help us to face ourselves. Thinking about our weaknesses is difficult, and deciding to improve realities is even more difficult.
Acts of justice and positivity heal oneself and one’s relationship with the Creator. Tears and fasting can be an element of our prayer. Improving ourselves and the world round us is another outcome of prayer and hope for a healed world.
These are very troubling times all over the world. I won’t list all the challenges in front of us because it’s too depressing. Let’s focus on the millions of wonderful innovators, optimists, do-gooders, and creative givers who make the world a better place. Let’s support the positive changes and work towards greater mending in the world.
Have a “positive” fast. May your year be filled with peace, health, happiness and “parnassa” (financial security) for you and your family. Happy 5782!
As we approach Yom Kippur- for many of us the most serious day of the year- we prepare for a day of fasting, prayer, and meditation. I expect that the significance of Yom Kippur differs for many of us. Is it a cleansing of the mind or the soul? Is it a day to take stock? Even if we can define what we think it is, can we achieve what we have defined?
The haftarah is from the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah’s message isn’t focused on the self. Rather it is focused on social justice. He says, “The fast you perform today will not make your voice heard on high.” (58:4) …”Loosen the bindings of evil, … shatter every yoke of slavery. Break your bread for the starving and bring the dispossessed home. When you see a person naked, clothe him; do not ignore your kin. And then your light will break out like the sunrise…”(58: 6,7)
This central message is that in and of itself the fast of Yom Kippur does not get God’s attention. Filling the world with justice and positive actions is the true goal of healing oneself and one’s relationship with the Creator. We can pray, we can fast, we can cry over our failings. If we don’t work to improve our actions and act in ways to improve the world round us, the tears and lack of food and water on the Day of Atonement are meaningless.
art by Laya Crust
Isaiah continues, saying, “…if you give of your soul to the starving, and answer the hunger of your souls oppressed- then your light will shine out in darkness, and your night will shine like noontide.”
There are many ways- large and small- to help those around us. Every small positive action betters the world around us and betters our selves.
Have a meaningful Yom Kippur, and let’s make the world better and brighter.
Shana Tova- May you be blessed and inscribed for a good and healthy year.
I love the image above- the image I painted for Shabbat Shuva. I used this painting (based on artwork by Ben Shahn) for last week’s reflections on the Shabbat preceding Yom Kippur.
It exemplifies the grandeur of Yom Kippur. The shofar is a central and defining sound of our supplications to Gd. Jews of all colours and races, Jews with different traditions and approaches to life gather and recognize Yom Kippur in their own way. The menorah represents the religious objects that guide us through our observances. Above all we see the hand of Gd, immersed in flames. The strength and power of Gd are beyong our simple understanding but still we strive to get closer to Gd.
art by Laya Crust
The second day of Yom Kippur, during mincha (the late afternoon prayers) we read the Book of Jonah. It’s a great adventure story. Jonah warned the inhabitants of the town of Ninevah that they would be destroyed if they didn’t change their evil ways. Evreryone- from the King to the animals(!) fasted and prayed in order to avert the punishment. They did repent and change their behaviours and Gd pardoned them.
The text refers Gd’s attention to all living things. Gd cared for the inhabitants of Ninevah who weren’t Jewish. The message is that we, who are created in the image of Gd, also are to care for all living beings around us and treat all living beings with compassion and understanding.
The story of Jonah also shows each person’s struggle with him or her self.
That is Yom Kippur. A conversation between oneself and Gd. It is an accounting of behaviour and motivation. Each person’s path and value is different and we must each examine ourselves- not judge others.
I hope you have – or had- a meaningful fast and meaningful prayer. May this year be one of health, peace, love, and joy for you, your family, and the world.