In Jewish tradition, Sukkot is known as one of the pilgrimage festivals, one of the three times each year when people from around the Holy Land would head to Jerusalem to worship and celebrate at the ancient Temples.
During Yizkor on Yom Kippur, I remember my father, who always made us laugh and I also remember my best friend Carla Meyers, who used to say, “In humor there is truth.”
So when I recently came across this joke in the Joseph Telushkin book Jewish Humor, I recognized the sad truth buried within a joke that causes discomfort in me because it should be so far from reality.
The joke: A Jewish mother is walking down the street with her two young sons. A passerby asks her how old the boys are. “The doctor is three,” the mother answers. “And the lawyer is two.”
We can laugh at the joke, but I do believe that we are ready to move beyond the thinking behind it.
“And Aaron is to come to the Tent of Meeting and remove the linen garments that he had put on before entering the Sanctuary, and he is to leave them there” [Leviticus 16:23].
Not only were these vestments removed, but the clothing that the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) wore when he achieved complete forgiveness for the Jewish People had to be buried. Those clothes were never to be worn again, not by him and not by anyone else.
“I always say I’m sorry when I’ve hurt someone,” a man told me proudly in a recent conversation, a reflection that seemed appropriate in advance of Yom Kippur, which is so focused on repentance. “It’s the most important thing,” he said, looking me squarely in the eye with a mixture of impassioned education and nuanced reprimand. He is right, of course. And this is the season, I suppose, for all that — for remorse, apologies and open hearts. There is something beautiful and tender about all this, as members of the Jewish community engage in genuine and sincere introspection.
Why is the confessional on Yom Kippur in the plural? There are many answers to this question, because on some level it seems inappropriate to take upon ourselves sins we have not committed. Why should admit to things of which we are guiltless?
A native of Staten Island, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld has served for a decade as spiritual leader of Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C., which bills itself as the city’s oldest Orthodox congregation. The rabbi, who was ordained by Yeshiva University and served for five years as associate rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, has helped revive Ohev Sholom by conducting a high-visibility outreach to unaffiliated Jews. He also teaches a regular class on Judaism at the U.S. Senate.
With the Washington Nationals scheduled for the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, baseball fans are in a fix.
The Lerner family, owners of the National League’s Washington Nationals baseball team, have spoken: they won’t be attending any playoff games that take place on Yom Kippur, they told the press last week. Taking after famed Jewish baseball player Sandy Koufax, they’ve decided the High Holiday is no time for games.