Forgive and Forget
Today is Yom Kippur, holiest day of the Jewish calendar and ostensibly the day on which each person has their annual year-to-date sin audit. Traditionally, we fast for 24 hours, don’t drive, don’t shower, don’t get it on, plus a grab-bag of other prickly no-nos. Since it is the most important of all Jewish holidays, even ham-n’-bacon Jews have a tendency to fast on Yom Kippur.
Growing up most of my life in the states, I’ve gotten used to the three month long public festival of Christmas and its saturation of tinsel, Santa and rock and roll jingles. Being in Israel for Yom Kippur, however, has changed my conception of ‘public holiday’ forever. Of course, the radio and TV was rife with repetitions of “Gmar chatimah tovah” (may you be judged well) and “tzom kal” (may you have an easy fast) just like the ubiquitous stateside “Merry Christmas”, but this was different. The first rupture with American holiday glitz came when I realized that no one used Yom Kippur to sell anything. In fact, nothingis open here on Yom Kippur; not a single supermarket, restaurant, gas station, movie, convenience store or coffee shop is open for business. Public transportation does not run. Even the TV and radio discontinue allbroadcasting for 24 hours. When I stepped out on the veranda this morning, the first thing I noticed was the long line of tankers and freighters anchored out in the bay, waiting for sundown when the port authorities would allow them to dock. Then, the unmuffled sounds of songbirds and sea breeze reminded me that I wasn’t hearing traffic. Any traffic. People simply do not drive on Yom Kippur. No trucks, no deliveries, nothing. You can walk down the middle of the street all day and meet with nothing more dangerous than a gaggle of kids on bicycles. Somewhere a shofar blew.
This may sound trite to all the true-blue WASPers and anti-establishment hardasses out there, but to experience a Yom Kippur in a country filled with Jews was a very intimate experience for me, a unique feeling of belonging. I’ve never even imagined a holiday on which everyonefasts with me, on which my fast was not a private opportunity to reasses my experiences but a public function, in which the shadow of collective, national sin hung above the empty windows and unlit banners of the bakeries and butcher shops. Sitting alone, contemplating forgiveness within a nation of repentants, there is a strange sense of security in the air.
My apologies, and an appeal for forgiveness, to anyone whom I’ve hurt in the last twelve months. May we all be judged well, each one according to his virtues.