Monday, September 13, 2010


By Zvi Bellin, Ph.D. (MHHQ)

A few years ago on Yom Kippur, I actually paid attention to the morning Hafotorah Poriton that is read from the Book of Isaiah after the Torah portion. When the reader came to the following verses from Chapter 58, I wanted to stand up on my pew chair and scream, “WHAT THE BLEEP ARE WE DOING!” Here are the verses:

4. Behold, for quarrel and strife you fast, and to strike with a fist of wickedness. Do not fast like this day, to make your voice heard on high.

5. Will such be the fast I will choose, a day of man's afflicting his soul? Is it to bend his head like a fishhook and spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord?

6. Is this not the fast I will choose? To undo the fetters of wickedness, to untie the bands of perverseness, and to let out the oppressed free, and all perverseness you shall eliminate.

7. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and moaning poor you shall bring home; when you see a naked one, you shall clothe him, and from your flesh you shall not hide.

It is hard to believe that year after year we can disregard the plain meaning of these verses. Instead of sitting in synagogue all day, should we not be taking our Teshuvah (repentance) to the streets! I began to envision a huge festival in the middle of major cities set up on Yom Kippur where we all wear white (as is customary) and provide free food for anyone who needs. We set up swap clothing racks where anyone can give or take. There is free massage and Yoga, sessions on mediation and community reconciliation. A day where we allow ourselves to bypass the criticism of being “too idealistic”; dream big and manifest a society where people look out for one another.

Perhaps this Yom Kippur dream is on its way. I am glad that I got to share it with you. In the meantime, I feel liberated by these verses to explore alternative services and experiences on Yom Kippur which help me to focus on my relationship with G-d and the world. I invite you to do the same this year.

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