I’ve been making my way through Hilchot Teshuva, teachings on repentance collected by Rabbi Moses son of Maimon d.1204.
The collection is remarkable for how little emphasis it places on going through the motions. The essential obligation is not fasting, or dressing this way or that, or incanting prayers - as beautiful as the prayers may be. The essential obligation is personal confession; ‘I have sinned by doing this and that.’ In fact one can’t even rely on a confession; “A person who confesses, but does not determine in their heart to leave the matter [and no longer sin], is like one who immerses in a ritual bath holding a creepy-crawly in their hand.” That’s a stunning image to the rabbinic mind - the ritual bath is a place of purification, but lizards and the like are the embodiment of impurity. Certainly, ‘A person who says “I will sin and Yom Kippur will atone,” - repentance is withheld from such a person.’
Yom Kippur only works if we mean it. So I offer us all the chance to let this extraordinary array of observances into our heart. We should say the words as if we mean them. We should share contrition as if we are truly sorry. We should have the courage to open ourselves to the possibility of a better future.
May it come to us all.
Services this evening begin at 6:45pm and start 9:30am tomorrow (10am in the Minyan Chadash).
David-Yehuda will be leading a discussion on confession this evening for anyone who would like to stay back after the Kol Nidrei service.
In the afternoon we offer a class on ‘The Quality of Mercy’ with Aviva Dautch at 2:30pm and I hosting and responding to ‘Q’s with the best ‘A’s I can muster from 4:30pm.
For my errors of commission or omission, and for anything I have done this past year that has caused pain or distress, I am sorry. And seek your forgiveness,
Gemar Chatimah Tovah