Yom Kippur Confessions and Thoughts 5780

Image courtesy of Joe Pregadio/Unsplash.

SHORT VIDUI AND LONG VIDUI—YOM KIPPUR 5780

(For rabbis, cantors, prayer leaders and facilitators,  or anybody else who wishes to use this vidui in the synagogue or other settings, you can click here for a google.doc version that can be downloaded, handed out, abridged,  edited, etc. A  Hebrew version will be available on the Torat Tzedek facebook page, or  please write to torat.tzedek@gmail.com before Yom Kippur begins in Israel.)

Introduction

Here are versions of the “small” and “large” Yom Kippur viduim (Confessions of our sins) combining the traditional texts and our modern Israeli sins. Reciting these words may not feel like prayer because, like the traditional vidui, it is concrete and asks us to take individual responsibility for the collective sins of our society and our people. The confessions were never meant to be just a collection of words that we thoughtlessly recite on Yom Kippur. They are burning words, intended to make us feel uncomfortable because they speak painful truths about our lives and our society and our people that we must confront if we are to truly engage in the kheshbon nefesh (soul searching) that is a primary task during this season. We can then engage in “teshuvah.” Often translated as “repentance,” it means to hear and answer the call of God and conscience, make an effort to turn and change, and return to our truest and highest selves individually and collectively.

Just as the High Priest in ancient times had to recite his own vidui before saying a vidui for others, we need to look at our own sins before we recount the sins of others. One misses the point if one reads these modern versions in order to criticize those we don’t agree or identify with. The vidui is in the plural, because we say that, even if I have not personally committed these sins, my society has committed the sins recited in the traditional or the modern vidui, and I therefore share responsibility. This vidui is written for those who in some way identify Israel, and include themselves in the Israeli “we” when we recite “For the sins we have committed…” If you are not a part of the Israeli “we,” you might want to construct a similar vidui looking at the societies and communities of which you are a part, and share responsibility for.

For some the sin they must confess is always assuming the worst about Israel, while others must confess defending Israel, no matter what.

If some of the lines do not feel to you like they apply to Israeli society, please try to drop your defenses, and think again. If you still don’t think something applies, we again hope that the Torat Tzedek vidui will challenge you to create your own. Please feel free to download the word version of our vidui, then cut and paste and add and subtract to create your own personal/societal vidui. The point is to challenge you to engage in khesbon nefesh (soul searching), not to silence or intimidate. It is also possible to only recite a limited number of these texts, and concentrate on them. In many cases the first line is from the traditional viduis, and there are notes after the vidui explaining which traditional sources many of the concepts are taken from.

Most of us simply can’t be so self critical for most of the year. But, sometimes the power of the High Holy days allows us to do what we don’t manage to do at other times of the year. These viduis are not intended to be a delegitimization of ourselves, of our people or our country. They are actually an expression of our deep faith in ourselves, our ability to return to the good that is our true selves, and our ability to improve our society.
When we engage in kheshbon nefesh about ourselves and Israel on Yom Kippur, we can then celebrate our personal and Israeli assif rukhani (spiritual harvest) on Sukkot-our attributes and accomplishments that we are proud of. The vidui and the assif go together.

“Short” Vidui 5780

Ashamnu We have sinned against You by ignoring Your Image in every human being
Bagadnu We have betrayed the Torah, and our Declaration
of Independence
Gazalnu We have stolen lands and hope
Dibarnu Dofi We have slandered those who think differently than us
He’Evinu We have distorted the truth
V’Hirshanu We have acted wickedly, evicting East Jerusalem
families
Zadnu We have acted evilly towards those living in poverty
Khamasnu We have used the power of the State violently to
dispossess
Tifalnu Sheker We have told lies about the Bedouin “taking over.”
Ya’atznu Ra We have counseled evil to sell arms to rogue
governments
Kizavnu We have falsely claimed that the Nation State Law doesn’t discriminate
Latznu We have scoffed at those who believe in Tikun Olam
Maradnu We have rebelled against the good within us.
Niatznu We have incited against asylum seekers
Sararnu We have undermined our courts
Avinu We have committed iniquity against Susya and
Khan Al Akhmar
Pashanu We have transgressed against Umm Al Hiran
Tzararnu We have oppressed Al Araqib
Kashinu Oref We have stubbornly flaunted international law
Rashanu We have acted wickedly towards single parent
mothers
Shikhatnu We have corrupted Your Image within us
Tiavnu We have committed abomination against shepherds seeking to feed their flocks and farmers trying to reach their olive groves.
Tainu We have strayed from Your Path
Tiatanu We have caused soldiers and police to go astray by leading them to believe they are above the law.

“Long” Vidui 5780

For the sin we have sinned against You, saying, “If I am not for myself who will be for me,”
Caring only for fellow Jews, and justifying injustice to others.
And for the sin we have sinned against You, saying, “If I am only for myself, who am I,”
Caring only about non-Jews, and always blaming our own people.
And for the sin we have sinned against You by ignoring “If not now, when,”
As we silenced those suffering by saying, “It will take time – You will have to wait.”

For the sin we have sinned against You through false and harsh judgments,
Lacking faith in Your ability to help us act justly, the good within our people,
and our capability of doing better.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through offensive talk,
Scorning those whose concept of justice is different than ours.

For the sin we have sinned against you through baseless hatred
Towards human rights defenders.
And for the sin we have sinned against you through baseless hatred
Towards those concerned with Israel’s security.
And for the sin we have sinned against you through evil speech,
Assuming that human rights defenders don’t care about security,
and those who care about security don’t care about human rights.

For the sin we have sinned against You by justifying
The current reality as the ideal reality.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through knowingly deceiving ourselves,
Saying, “there is nothing we can do,” in order to justify inaction.

For the sin we have sinned against You willfully or unintentionally,
Believing that tikun olam (repairing the world) is beyond us, “In the heavens.”
And for the sin we have sinned against You through faintness of heart
Ceasing to believe “It is very close to you…that you may do it.”

For the sin we have sinned against you by throwing off the yoke,
Saying it is the responsibility of others to improve the world.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through lip-service,
Complaining about injustice and studying about our responsibility, without intending to translate knowledge into action.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through short sightedness:
Believing in instant fixes, we neglected long term solutions and education.

For all these sins, God of forgiveness, we seek forgiveness, pardon, and atonement.


For the sin we have sinned against you through breach of trust,
Allowing the majority to “democratically” trample the rights of the disadvantaged and minorities
And for the sin we have sinned against you by gathering to do harlotry,
Creating a majority to do every evil our hearts wished.

For the sin we have sinned against you by breaking the most basic ground rules,
Undermining our legal system to make it look and think like the Knesset.
And for the sin we have sinned against you by going too far
Threatening to destroy entire communities.

For all these sins, God of forgiveness, we seek forgiveness, pardon, and atonement.

For the sin we have sinned against You through the desecration of Your Name,
Applying the interpersonal commandments only towards Jews.
And for the sin which we have sinned against You through insolence,
Claiming that only Jews have rights to the Land.

For the sin we have sinned against you knowingly and deceitfully,
Exploiting unjust laws to “Judaize” East Jerusalem.
And for the sin we have sinned against you through harsh and unfair judgment.
The KKL/JNF has won a judgment ordering the eviction of the Sumarin family
based on the interpretation of the Absentee Property Law the Government later
promised not to use.

For the sin we have sinned against you by breach of trust-
The KKL/JNF evicted the Ghozlan family, although they saved Jews in 1929.
And for the sin we have sinned against you ensnaring our fellow-
Elad founder David Beeri befriending the Abbasi family, and then used information gained to take over most of their home through the Absentee Property Law.

For the sin we have sinned against you through denying and lying
Using questionable evidence to evict families from Sheikh Jarakh.
And for the sin we have sinned against you through denying and lying
Refusing to entertain new evidence that could prevent the threatened evictions
of the Sabagh and other families.

For all these sins, God of forgiveness, we seek forgiveness, pardon, and atonement.

For the sin we have sinned against You through drunken vision,
Not seeing Israeli Arabs as equal partners.
And for The sin we have sinned against You through false oaths
About equal rights.

For the sin we have sinned against You through defiling our lips-
With hate speech and racism.
And For the sin we have sinned against You by not using our minds,
Believing the Bedouin are “taking over the Negev.”

For the sin we have sinned against You through denial and falsehood,
Not recognizing Bedouin land ownership we previously acknowledged.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through selfish envy,
Coveting the 5.4% of the Negev claimed by the Bedouin.

For the sin we have sinned against You through abuse of power,
Demolishing Bedouin homes, destroying crops and foresting over villages
And for the sin we have sinned against You through hurrying to do evil,
Rushing to steal land before a court rules who owns it.
And for the sin we have sinned against You by incriminating
Jailing Sheikh Sayakh for “trespassing” on his own land.

For the sin we have sinned against You through hardening our hearts,
Acting mercilessly to wipe out Umm Al Hiran
And for the sin we have sinned against You through negotiation
We cancelled one agreement , imposed another, and now seek to cancel that as well.

For all these sins, God of forgiveness, we seek forgiveness, pardon, and atonement.

For the sin we have sinned against You through indulging in food and drink,
As the social gap increases.
And for the sin which we have sinned against You through abandoning your Torah,
By abandoning responsibility for one another.

For the sin which we have sinned against You through hardening our hearts,
To grinding poverty.
For the sin we have sinned against You through not taking action (shev v’al ta’aseh),
Claiming we aren’t responsible.

For the sin we have sinned against You through quieting our conscience,
Giving charity rather than addressing the roots of poverty.
For the sin we have sinned against You through lashon ha’ra (slander),
Treating those living in poverty as leeches.

For the sin we have sinned against You through raising barriers,
Setting unfair criteria denying the needy public housing.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through leaving buildings empty,
While many lack homes.

For the sin we have sinned against You through trapping innocents.
In endless debt
And for the sin we have sinned against You through casting aside the weak,
Underfunding healthcare and vital medicines.

For the sin we have sinned against You, saying, “What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours,”
To justify the unfair distribution of resources.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through usury and exploitation
Putting profits before people.

For all these sins, God of forgiveness, we seek forgiveness, pardon, and atonement.

For the sin we have sinned against You through idolatry,
Elevating the Land of Israel over human beings created in Your Image.
For the sin we have sinned against You because we were seduced and blinded
By the Land’s holiness, so that we couldn’t see Your Image in fellow human beings.

For the sin we have sinned against You through ruling high handedly,
Making ourselves the lawmakers, judges and enforcers over another people.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through cynical speech
Calling the decrees we imposed on others, “the rule of law.”

For the sin we have sinned against You through land theft,
Through the laws we imposed.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through not enforcing laws,
That defend Palestinians.

For the sin we have sinned against you through unfair double standards (eifah v’eifah)
We created separate planning systems for Jews and Palestinians.
And for the sin we have sinned against you through ensnaring our fellow-
The Palestinian system prevents legal building, and then we demolish “illegal” homes.

For the sin we have sinned against You through disingenuous words-
Saying that were we not to demolish the homes of the occupied the same as of the occupier, THAT would be a double standard.

And for the sin we have sinned against You through closing our ears-
Ignoring children’s wails when demolishing their “illegal” homes.

For the sin we have sinned against You through the words of our lips,
Claiming housing is not a Palestinian right.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through “legal” approval-
Our High Court consents to discriminatory policies and demolitions.

For the sin we have sinned against You knowingly or unknowingly-
Permitting successive governments to steal, demolish, uproot, dispossess and humiliate.
And for the sin we have sinned against you through weakness-
Failing to prevent “Price Tag” attacks.

For the sin we have sinned against You through entrapment-
Abusing children to extract confessions.
And for the sin we have sinned against You by claiming that “never again”
Means that defense justifies everything.

For all these sins, God of forgiveness, we seek forgiveness, pardon, and atonement.

For the sin we have sinned against You through closing our borders
To asylum seekers fleeing for their lives.
And for the sin we have sinned against You through causing needless hatred-
Concentrating asylum seekers in South Tel Aviv neighborhoods, not ours.

For the sin we have sinned against You thoughtlessly-
Labeling them “infiltrators” without fairly processing their refugee status claims
For the sin we have sinned against You through our words-
Inciting and sowing fear.

For the sin we have sinned against You through abandonment-
Taking no responsibility after forcing “voluntary deportation.”
And for the sin we have sinned against You through entrapment-
Denying work permits, then complaining of crime.

For the sin we have sinned against You through forgetting
How we suffered from closed borders.
And for the sin we have sinned against You for forgetting
That we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

For all these sins, God of forgiveness, we seek forgiveness, pardon, and atonement.

For the sin we have sinned against You through the desecration of Your Name-
Ignoring “agunot” (women not granted a Jewish divorce) and halakhic solutions.

For the sin we sinned against you saying, “We didn’t know”-
But, we knew.
And, for the sin we sinned against You without knowing-
Not wanting to know

For the sin we have sinned against You through teaching
Stereotypes, racism, orientalism and hatred of the other.
And for the sin we have sinned against you through blindness
To Your Presence in every human being.

For the sin we have sinned against You through faintheartedness-
Acting from fear, instead of our values.
And for the sin which we have sinned against You through thinking to ourselves and mumbling in closed rooms
What we should have cried aloud, raising our voices like a shofar.

For all these sins and more, God of forgiveness, we seek forgiveness, pardon, and atonement.

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts bring us to true teshuva, pushing us to act to make the world a place in which Your Shekhina can dwell.

May it be Your Will that we merit to give expression to Your Image within us in the coming year through how we treat others.

May it be Your Will that we in some small way help to reduce evil and injustice, glorifying You by improving the human condition in our country and in our world. For, we are all created in Your Image.

References:

Because we sometimes use translations of phrases from the traditional vidui that are different than the ones you may find in your High Holy Day prayerbook, we provide here a transliteration of the key words from the traditional vidui, as well as other references that are found in the Torat Tzedek vidui. If no reference is found here, that means that the phrase in question is not taken from the traditional vidui or other source.
The next three phrases are a well known quote from Hillel in Pirkei Avot 1:14:
“If I am not for myself who will be for me,” Im eyn ani li, mi li
If I am only for myself, who am I – K’sh’ani l’atzmi, mah ani
If not now, when – Im eyn akshav, az ei-matai
False and harsh judgments – Flilut
Offensive talk – Dibur peh
Baseless hatred-Sinat khinam
Evil Speech-Lashon HaRa
Justifying – Tziduk hadin
Knowingly deceiving ourselves-B’da’at u’vmirmat atzmeinu
Willfully or unintentionally – B’zadon u’v’shgaga
In the heavens – “The Torah I enjoin upon you this day is not baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, ‘Who among us can go up to the heavens and get for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it’ …No, the thing is very close to you, in our mouth and in your heart, to observe it,” Deuteronomy 30:11-12
Faintness of heart-Timahon levav
Throwing off the yoke – Frikat ol
Lip service – Vidui peh
Short sightedness –Kalut rosh – literally levity or lack of seriousness
Breach of trust-Tsomet yad
Gathering to do harlotry-V’idat znut
Breaking the most basic ground rules-shvirat hakelim
Going too Far-Harkhat lekhet
Desecration of Your Name –Khilul haShem
Insolence – Azut metzakh
Knowingly and deceitfully-B’da’at u’v’mirmah
Harsh and unfair judgment-Flilut
Breach of trust-Tsomet yad
Ensnaring our fellow-B’zdiat reah
Denying and Lying-B’khakhash u’v’khazav
Drunken vision – Shikur ayin
False Oaths-B’shvuot Shav
Defiling our lips – Tum’at sfatayim
Not using our minds – Bli da’at
Denial and falsehood – Khakhash u’khazav
Selfish envy-Tzarut Ayin
Abuse of power – Khozek yad
Running to do evil – ritzat reglayim le’ha’ra
Incriminating-flilut
Hardening our hearts – Imutz halev
Negotiation-Masa u’matan
Eating and drinking-B’Ma’akhal u’v’mishteh
Abandoning Your Torah-B’azveinu et Toratekha
Hardening our hearts – Imutz halev
Not taking action – shev v’al ta’aseh
Quieting our conscience – Hashtakat matzpun
Slander – Lashon hara
Raising barriers – Ha’amadat miksholim
Leaving buildings empty – Hashirnu binyanim reykim
Trapping innocents-b’neskhekh u’marbit-Literally, “Userous interest”
Casting off the weak – Kfitzat yad lelu sh’tash kokham. Miserliness to those whose strength has abandoned them. “Whose strength has abandoned them” is part of the plea to God in the Yom Kippur liturgy “Do not cast us aside in our old age, don’t abandon us when our own strength fails us.”
“What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours” Sheli, sheli-shelkha shelkha – Pirkei Avot One who says “What is mine is mine, what’s yours is mine is clearly an evil person, while one who says “What is mine is mine, what is yours is yours is an average person. However, we are told that there are those who say that this is the quality of the Sodomites, because they would offer no help to a person in need, but say that they were ok, so long as they didn’t take anything from that person.

Usury and exploitation – B’neshekh u’b’marbit
Idolatry-Avodah zarah
Seduced and blinded – shikur ayin
Ruling high handedly – yad ramah
Cynical speach-Bitui Sfatayim
Land theft-gzeilat karkaot
Not enforcing laws-Ei akhifat khok
Double standards – Eifah v’eifah (Originally in the Torah referring to false weights and measures, the rabbis expanded the concept to refer to many forms of discrimination.)
Plotting – tz’dayat raiah – Plotting against those who are essentially like us (Raiah is often translated “neighbor”-“Love your neighbor as yourself,” but better translated as those who are essentially like us. All human beings are essentially like us because we are all created in God’s Image.
Closing our ears-Atimat ozneinu
Words of our lips – siakh sfateinu – Literally the conversation of our lips.
Legal approval- tziduk hadin
Knowingly or unknowingly- B’yodim u’v’lo yodim
Weakness-Ozlat yad
Entrapment – flilut
Never again – l’olam lo od
Closing our borders-N’eilat sha’arim. On Yom Kippur we pray for forgiveness before the gates are closed-Neilah
Needless Hatred-Sinat Khinam
Thoughtlessly-Bli da’at
Our words-dibur peh
Abuse of power-khozek yad
Abandonment – Hafkarat b’nei adam
Entrapment-tzdayat reah
Forgetting-shikhakha
Desecration of Your Name –khilul HaShem
We didn’t know-Lo Yadanu
Without knowing-bli da’at
Teaching-khinukh
Blindness-Ivaron
Faintheartedness – Timahon levav
Cried out loud, raising our voices as a shofar (Adopted from Yom Kippur Morning Haftorah, Isaiah 58)

 

YOM KIPPUR THOUGHTS 5780

 

In “The World of the High Holy Days,” Rabbi Jack Riemer tells the story he heard from the Jewish educator Shlomo Bardin, recalling going with his grandfather to the cemetery between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Although this had been over70 years ago, Bardin recalled clearly that his grandfather didn’t go into the cemetery because he was a cohen, but would walk around the fence and ask people buried there for forgiveness. Riemer concludes, “Seventy years from now, what do you think our children and our grandchildren will remember having seen us do?…What we say, they may remember for five years. If you are an extraordinarily gifted speaker they may remember what you say for ten years…They won’t remember what we say to them for seventy years. But, they may remember what we do-seventy years from now. Because what we do leaves much more of an impression than what we say.”

This story brings together two themes I have been thinking about a lot lately-education and action. I will write a bit personally not because I am self absorbed (at least not only because I am self absorbed), but because I don’t believe in asking others what I don’t ask of myself. Bear with me, and I hope that the more universal message will become clear.

Our children.

The phrase from our prayers that is most consistently jumping out at me recently, is “V’shinantem l’vanekha-You shall teach them (that which I command you this day)- to your children” (Deuteronomy 6:7 ) My children are now 20 and 17. They are no longer the little toddlers praying on my knees, perched on my shoulders at an economic justice demonstration, or imagining that we are marching through the desert towards Sinai when we count the omer. They no longer accept unquestionably stories I bring from the field, such as when I would compare Palestinians going to the Israeli High Court to the Daughters of Tzlofkhad, or contrasting between the use of fire in their scouts ceremonies, and settlers burning olive trees.

Now that my children are independently thinking young adults forging their own spiritual paths in the world, what can or should I still try to teach them? Do I still have an opportunity to fulfill this important commandment? I have always believed in encouraging them to think for themselves, and remember how my teacher, Rabbi Professor Eugene Borowitz z”l would apply the Lurianic kabbalah‘s concept of “tzimtzum” to education and parenting. We must contract ourselves in order to create a space for our children to develop. At this stage it is somewhat moot. I couldn’t control their thinking, even if I wanted to.

Our sages taught that our students, and not just our children, and can be the ones to carry on our beliefs and values. Torat Tzedek, and all of us in the human rights community, expand this to our entire society, “What can we or should we do to inspire our fellow Israelis to honor God’s Image in every human being?”

Not everybody appreciates this assumption of responsibility. One of the responses I sometimes get, is “Who are you, to try to educate (they would say ‘harass’) soldiers? They aren’t your children.” I explain that I try to speak with soldiers, or anybody else, with the utmost courtesy, even if I deeply oppose what they are doing. However, not to try to educate is to abandon our soldiers. In the thankfully few occasions where I have found out long after the fact that one of my children did something that I didn’t approve of, I was both embarrassed for not knowing, and upset with those who knew and neither informed us nor tried to speak to my children.

The connection between words and deeds.

At the conclusion of the Amidah prayer, the private conversation time we have standing before God, we meditate, “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, Adonai-my rock and my redeemer.” However, we are also taught that on Yom Kippur God only forgives us for ritual sins committed against God alone. God will only forgive us for sins committed against fellow human beings, after we have made amends with those we have harmed. The words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts can only be acceptable if they follow up on, or lead to action.

This season of soul searching that began on the first of the Jewish month of Elul, intensified on Rosh HaShanah, and will conclude on Yom Kippur (some say on the final day of Sukkot) can be a time for asking hard questions of ourselves, or of simply hoping that saying the right words is sufficient. The words alone are never sufficient. Neither are the questions, for that matter. They can move us in the right direction.

Thankfully, our Rosh HaShanah prayers punctured my complacency – perhaps the meditative moments even more so.

Thinking of everything from my family to the state of our society to the policy changes Torat Tzedek is working on, to the human rights victims for whom I feel particular responsibility, my uneasiness began to grow and spread. Yes, there were areas where I had carried out the promises I had made to God and to myself last year. There were so many where I hadn’t. And, words are not enough.

Neither changing family dynamics nor effecting policy change happen all that quickly. But, what could I do more immediately?

A plan began to form. I’ve written before about Ibrahim, the Palestinian farmer I have known for 17 years. Despite our success in helping him prove ownership of his olive grove adjacent to the fanatical and often violent Khavat Gilad outpost, only 222 of his 450 trees are left. Last year we demanded his right to plant new trees, but they too were uprooted. Year after year, 50%-100% of his olives are stolen. Last year, “only” 25%. Perhaps the fact that we had brought in a group to conduct an unauthorized early harvest until we were kicked out, and the fact that we spent several days and nights observing the grove helped. But, another 22 trees were uprooted, even though I send a real time video clip. This year, we coordinated a full court press for him to conduct an early harvest at the end of September, but it was postponed until the day after Rosh HaShanah-still early, but tipping the settlers off that they had just a bit more time to steal olives. Why hadn’t we even taken the steps we took last year to watch over the grove?

I couldn’t find anybody to join me, and I can’t say it was the smartest thing I ever did, but I spent the evening after Rosh HaShana conducting a lookout over Ibrahim’s olive grove. Ironically, the Palestinians in the area are so afraid of the Khavat Gilad settlers that I knew there was less danger from them. I informed the army and police of my whereabouts. Sometime just after midnight the outpost security officer found me, brought the army and threatened to call the police. I was well outside his area of authority, but eventually decided that to stay could endanger the harvest scheduled for the next day, and hoped that there would be enough lack of certainty as to whether I had really left, to prevent any attempts at theft later in the night.

I was overcome with emotion the next day when, for the first time in 10 years, Ibrahim found all of his olives on his trees. On the second harvest day, he found some trees where the olives had been stolen, and is waiting for a third day to finish. However, he sees the relatively small amount of olives stolen as a sort of tithe. More seriously, he saw a new structure built by the settlers in his grove, and where it looks like the settlers are preparing for additional building. We still have work to do.

While maintaining my lookout, I wrote an email to my family reminding them not to hate, recapping all the violence, theft and vandalism that Ibrahim has suffered, explaining that I can no longer look in Ibrahim’s resigned eyes, and how his story is an extreme but representative example of how the Occupation inexorably grinds up Palestinians because even those who say they are opposed do nothing. There are those who actively do evil, those who support, and those who look the other way. I concluded with another quote that has always been important to me, but increasingly so, “When those around you are not acting with basic human decency, you must be the one who does.” (Pirkei Avot 2:5)

So what do I wish all of you this year? “Be the one,” so that together we will be the many-the “agudah ekhat” doing God’s Will and God’s Work. May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts disturb us, shatter our complacency, and move us to additional and more intelligent results achieving action. May our actions increase the spiritual harvest we can relish during Sukkot. May our biological and our spiritual families, as well as our communities and societies be open and receptive to the examples we aspire to be.

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