The seasons of the Jewish calendar have a way of surprising us, year after year, with their seeming relevance to life around us. Sometimes, though, the holidays have a bluntness that goes beyond poetry. It was in September 1998, on the eve of Yom Kippur, that Russia’s economy followed Thailand’s into meltdown and threatened global collapse. One can imagine the whispers in the Washington synagogues where, among those who had gathered in the pews to atone, sat many of our leading economic policymakers. And it was on the eve of Yom Kippur 2005 that Hurricane Katrina hit.
This Yom Kippur, we once again entered the synagogue with some rather colossal errors to repent. The timing couldn’t have been better. What better way to remind ourselves how urgent it is to play the blame game before moving on? We stand and confess our mistakes before we forgive ourselves or our neighbors. We announce to the community just what we have done wrong, because we can’t fix things if we don’t understand and accept how they happened. We do not duck blame. We embrace it.
Then, our sins discharged, the fall festival of Sukkot arrives, and we go outside to dwell for a week under the stars in a brightly decorated sukkah, to remind ourselves how frail, how temporary is our housing. Easy come, easy go.
Happy holidays, and a fine inscription to our readers.