Friday, October 3, 2014

Erev Yom Kippur 5775


Tonight, in one of those curious intersections that happens with traditions keyed to lunar calendars, all-important-to-Muslims rites and rituals involving the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, fall at the same as Yom Kippur, the most solemn Jewish Day of Atonement. 
It’s unusual that’s for sure. The coinciding Day of Arafat when pilgrims to Mecca will be at Mount Arafat atoning for their sins and misdeeds and the Yom Kippur activities with biblical links to the time of Moses will not happen again for many decades.

Yet the Hajj/Yom Kippur traditions and observances of these oft-times-at-odds “children of Abraham” are remarkably parallel.

The “children of Abraham” connection is the key, of course. As I understand it, the core reason Muslims desire to make their pilgrimage is to honor the Patriarch Abraham, the very same Patriarch Jews honor and revere.

(It’s not clear to me why a corresponding annual atonement/repentance observance isn’t extant in the Christian extension of the family. But I’d speculate that Easter time is closely connected with some elements and the largely secular New Year’s Eve with its resolutions and such is also in play.) 

More to the immediate date and point: The Jewish and Muslim communities worship the essentially same deity. They acknowledge and honor many of the same prophets. Many of the dietary restrictions are held in common. The underlying mindset in rituals of atonement and invocation to that deity for forgiveness and mercy are strikingly similar.

So what?

Most of you probably realize I’m not an especially religious person.  Some who know me more intimately are kind enough to deem my view “spiritual” at times. If pressed I might allow that I think many of my opinions in this region could align with positions I conclude the Founding Fathers of the United States articulated as “Nature’s God.”
So I hope to claim some status as a trying-to-remain-impartial outside observer.

And here’s my observation: There’s self-evident truth in today’s particular alignment of traditions. No matter the source or depth of your beliefs, the underlying concepts of –
  • Spiritual introspection
  • Retrospection
  • Seeking pardon
  • Granting remission or forgiveness
  • Atonement, and
  • Resolving and vowing to go forward anew. 
-- have legitimacy and power.

Tradition-observant Jews repeat a “confession” several times during the observance of Yom Kippur cataloguing fifty-six categories of “sin.” 

And here’s what’s particularly interesting to me about that and apt to our day and age: 

The confession is recited as a collective “we”
– not an individual “I.”

This tradition is one of sharing each other’s transgressions plus acknowledging general responsibility for the misdeeds of mankind.

TAKEAWAY: We might be well served if the secular “We the people …” could apply ourselves to ways to come together to do that now.

Mosaic floor with seven-branched menorah plus other Jewish ritual objects.
The latter are, from right to left:
a shofar [ram's horn used on the Rosh haShanah holiday];
 an incense shovel as used in the Temple;
an etrog [citron in English], a citrus fruit used on the Sukkot holiday;
what appears to be a lulav, a palm frond, also used on the Sukkot holiday.
The Greek inscription says "Praise for the People."
The mosaic is dated to the 6th century.
Sound the shofar. In ancient Palestine the ram’s horn trumpet was used to signal danger, convene the populace, call for defense, announce a holiday. May you – each and all, without regard to the particulars of our philosophical viewpoints – be inscribed and sealed for a good year.    

Geoff Steck
Chief Catalyst
Alexander Publishing & Marketing
8 Depot Square
Englewood, NJ 07631

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