Thursday, September 27, 2001

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. For Jews, it is the holiest day of the year. We spend much of it at temple (we were there for a couple of hours this morning, and will be going back soon for a couple more hours), and we fast (standard Yom Kippur joke: "Why do they call it a 'fast day' if it goes so damn slow?").

A big part of the liturgy for Yom Kippur focuses on a sort of mass confessional. We, as a community, read through the lists of sins that we, as a community as well as individuals, may have committed, attempt to repent, and ask for forgiveness. But that is not the only thing covered.

Today, in the light of recent events, and my frustration over how to respond to them (to support a war that may actually be justified, or to follow my natural pacifistic tendency and oppose war) I was particularly struck by how much of the service focuses on peace. The need for peace, the desire for peace, the goal of peace, the blessing of those who would make peace and those who would teach peace, and the sins of not keeping the peace.

Then we came to the reading of the long lists of sins and I saw one I'd never noticed before: the sin of appeasing aggressors. How does one keep peace as the highest goal without giving in to appeasing aggressors? Is this the loophole that allows for the making of war? Or is there a way to remain strong in the face of aggression, and even to fight back, without resorting to more violence?

There are no easy answers to this situation. All I can do is to return to temple this evening and pray for guidance; for myself and for our nation.

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