Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

An Older Man’s Perspective on Yom Kippur: The Jewish Day of Atonement

By Robert M. Katzman © October 10, 2019

I believe that the central and very big idea of Yom Kippur, is essentially to ask for forgiveness as a community, all over the world, not only for one’s self. To atone collectively. 

Asking God to forgive another’s sin’s is an amazing concept if you think about it in reference to when these ideas were assembled–perhaps 3,000 years ago–when it was simply kill or be killed. 

Asking to be forgiven for other’s unknown sins even if you personally were not involved, to me is cosmic and all embracing. Part of the elusive concept of my being Jewish, is accepting the existence of evil thoughts and deeds among us, no matter how reprehensible, so that we as a People may be allowed to continue to exist and still attempt to bring enlightened thought to the world. And also to pass on the otherworldlessness of this idea, to our next generation. 

I am slightly educated compared to many, in the conventional sense of that. But I have been thinking about meaning, about being Jewish, for half a century. 

We are a tiny Biblical people endlessly wandering through the dangerous modern world, now dodging bullets and missles instead of spears and arrows. But this idea, this sense of responsibility is as big as the Universe.

At nearly seventy, a number so big to achieve it was inconceivable when I was a child, I understand that serenity is always out of my reach, that living longer means all my relatives and friends slip away like the leaves now failing silently from millions of trees. 

The steep price that must paid for being allowed a longer life is continuing loneliness and isolation from my former peers, realizing that so many shared memories cease to be shared. 

That the pack of carrying so much lived life becomes impossibly heavy to carry, and that the only way a writer avoids being crushed, is to accept that his or her mission, responsibility, is to leave a record. Each word lightens the pack, and any lies told will only make the pack heavier. 

I do not think being a writer is a choice. I think it is a responsibility assigned at birth, and that an individual may take a lifetime to realize this fact, as I have. 

I wasn’t supposed to sell magazines and newspapers or all the other stuff I did instead. I was supposed to leave a record. 

Every day, every word expressed, makes my pack slightly lighter. Or perhaps, I just imagine that. 

Perhaps that is the compensation for the extra years allotted to me. 

Eventually, we all may have our questions answered. 

And another Yom Kippur, my 69th, slips away.

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