It is the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  In a few hours, Jews the world over will begin a 25 hour period of fasting, prayer and self-examination.  How many  people though, will turn an opportunity for introspection and self-examination into meaningless mechanical ritual?  How many Jewish people have the will and courage to use this most sacred day to reconsider the passions that drive us throughout the year?

I can say without hesitancy that one of the issues I wrestle with each year, is my tendency to be angry, intolerant and condescending towards people who have very different opinions from mine.  I’m a hypocrite and I know it: I decry intolerance based on race, religion, gender and sexual preference.  But I am the grand puba of narrow-mindedness when it comes to dealing with  people who subscribe to conservative political and social perspectives.

One of the many things troubling me this Yom Kippur, is the rampant paganism being practiced in the Jewish world.   Too many of my Jewish brothers and sisters have replaced love for God and God’s children with love for mechanical rituals; blind obedience to ancient interpretations of Jewish law; and the belief that “Haartz,” the land of ancient Israel is more sacred than God and human beings.

Below, are two disturbing pictures and one video that highlight the kind of idolatry some Jewish people practice.

The first picture, taken one year ago today before Yom Kippur. It is of an Orthodox Jew about to perform the ancient ceremony called “kapparot.”   By swinging a live chicken over his head, it is the man’s intention to transfer all of his sins on to the fowl.  It struck me from the way he’s holding the chicken and the way he is holding his daughter, that for a fleeting moment or two, he’s not quite sure which is the more important.

Early this week, radical Jewish settlers in Israel, burned the mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariya in Northern Israel to protest government efforts to stop the construction of illegal new Israeli settlements.  It is beyond comprehension, how anyone or any group that claims to believe in God and justice, can burn the holy books and houses or worship of any faith.  This is fanatical paganism and fascism at its worst. It is the antithesis of what Judaism is all about.

In the 1960’s and ’70’s, those of us who stood up for civil rights in this country, were often called “nigger lovers” by bigots who needed to believe that people of African descent are somehow inferior.  Name calling based on political and social values continues in America, unabated.  One doesn’t need to go into the streets to hear childish name calling, turn on Fox Noise for an hour.

The video below, includes shocking visual and audio evidence of the extreme intolerance of radical Israeli settlers. Obviously, they believe that Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular, are evil-inferior human beings who should be driven from the land.  The settlers in this video are challenging the right of a Palestinian to  claim to a piece of land that his been in his family for many decades.  The settlers are prepared to inflict physical harm on the Palestinian and his many humane Jewish supporters, AKA: “Arab lovers, sons of whores…..etc.”

The settlers claim to the land? God and history gave it to them.  What do you think will be going through the minds of such Jews this Yom Kippur?

  • For the sin which we have committed before You by replacing You with hate.
  • For the sin which we have committed before You by conveniently forgetting that all human beings are created in the Divine Image.
  • For the sin which we have committed before You by worshiping You in ways that are a direct contradiction to Your love and teachings.
  • For the sin which we have committed before You by turning religious life and rituals into meaningless mechanical acts.
  • For the sin which we have committed before You by fearing change, new ideas and people who are different from us.
  • For the sin which we have committed before You in  believing that our “tribe” is somehow better, holier and more important than any other in this world.
  • For the sin which we have committed before You by putting self-interest ahead of the well-being of our community, nation and human kind.
  • For the sin which we have committed before You by failing to remember that the single greatest act of faith, is to show love and respect for other people.

For all these, God of forgiveness, pardons us, grant us atonement.