Aired September 22, 2012 on Dave’s Gone By.
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of September 23rd, 2012.
Repent! Repent! The end of the world is nigh! Repent!
Just screwing with you. We’ll be around for awhile longer, but it’s always good to take one day out of the year and apologize for all the crap we pull every other day of the year.
Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, is not a get-out-of-gehenna-free card. You don’t confess and magically find yourself absolved and awarded with a Starbucks Gold Card. Like it or not, you are still the same schmucky you. But at least you have taken a few hours to reflect upon your weaknesses, to wonder whom you might have hurt, and to ask God to take a little pity and keep you in the book of life for one more year.
Notice, I put God on the tail end of that sentence. That is no disrespect to you-know-who. And by you-know-who, I mean God. That’s why I said “you know who” `cause I just mentioned him by name, so you’d know who – he’d be fresh in your mind. If I’d meant Buddah, that would have been a surprise, you would not have known who. Or former Rolling Stones bass player Bill Wyman – that would have really come out of left field, you couldn’t possibly have guessed who. Unless you were God, who knows everything. He would know who. And in this case, it would be He. Horton would hear a who, but he wouldn’t know which who he heard. Unless God told him. He would say, “Horton, you’re hearing me. Now go hatch an egg. And tell Maisie she needs to atone.”
Which brings me back to my original point: the day of atonement is for people. We pray to God, we ask God’s forgiveness, we repent our sins. But we do this, not just to assuage the rage of a disappointed God, but to become better people. To realize that our actions have consequences that affect everyone around us. If we lie, if we cheat, if we buy retail, we create unhappiness in other people. Sure, most of them deserve it, but that’s not our call to make.
If you shoplift a dress from Ann Taylor, does HaShem care? Maybe, maybe not – he’s busy. But the security guard in the store who’s paid to watch the merchandise: he cares. The employees who make lower wages because lost income affects the bottom line – they care. The family members who see you in that dress at the holidays – they don’t care; they don’t even know it’s stolen. But they still call you a slut because the dress is too small and the color kind of whorish.
Unlike the Catholics, Jews atone, not because of our fear of the next world, but out of love and respect for the people in this one. Yes, in the Kol Nidre prayer, we ask God’s pardon from promises we couldn’t keep, and yes, we don’t eat for 24 hours – which for Jews is a torture worse than being trapped in an elevator with the Dance Moms. Far be it from me to say that Jews shouldn’t afraid of going to hell – or worse, West Hempstead, but as Jean Paul Sartre proved: hell can be other people. This is the planet we’re on for however long we’re on it, so if we are forced to think twice about how we treat our fellow travelers, maybe they will do the same for us. And that makes a better planet for everybody.
So this Yom Kipper, when it’s 4:30 in the afternoon, and you’re tired, and you’re grumpy, and your breath smells like something that malformed in Jerry Stiller’s tuchas, remember that you’re there to do better, to be better, or at least to try harder.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York. Lather, rinse, repent.
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