As Good an Omen as it Gets

People look for some sort of sign that Yom Kippur went well upstairs.

I can’t promise that, but I did find one that leaves room for huge optimism.

Some find it in a gematria of the number of the year. Others in some hint in an old text. A particularly pointed (or particularly obscure) message from some contemporary mekubal or major Torah sage calms the jitters of others.

I’m enough of a skeptic that I thought that the only thing that would work for me would be a red string turning white. But that hasn’t happened in almost 2000 years.

Today, I proved myself wrong. Stepping out of shul in the afternoon, I gazed out at one of my favorite sights: Yerushalayim, seen across the valley from Ramot.

It is always inspiring – a panorama of old and new, in a city that does not fit into history. It just defies everything about history of the last two millennia. Today, however, it was different.

Yerushalayim – G-d’s city – was a vista of absolute serenity. There was not a car to be seen on the two major arteries normally visible. The quiet spoke of an entire people, a still diverse population, united in its loyalty to Hashem, even if in different ways.

On a typical Shabbos, you can find large pockets of tranquility and serenity, but only if you narrow your visual field. If you do that, you can take in the pure atmosphere of Shabbos, but you have to obscure lots of other things you could notice. The price you pay for that is sometimes convincing yourself that you and those who think pretty close to the way you do are those that somehow “count” more in the way HKBH looks at the world.

But that is not true. It is not the record of Nach, and it does not fit in with our understanding of Knesses Yisrael, the super-neshamah of the Jewish people.

A good omen for the new year has to be more inclusive than our own group.

Yerushalayim today provided more than a bit of hope. The calm, the serenity in Hashem’s special place – still awaiting a Bais Hamikdosh – must have competed with the praises of the seraphim and ophanim on high. While we could not hear it, the message had to have gotten through to where it needed to go.

Yes, there is a love and longing for Elokus among this large population. Ashkenazim and Edot HaMizrach, haredi, secular, dati-leumi, chardal, black, white. For one magic day, everyone, it seemed, they all demonstrated that there was an Am Yisrael worthy of renewing the covenant with for another year.

Admittedly, this was not the first year that this was visible. It was just a first Yom Kippur here for me. Still, it left room for immense hope, even in a hardened Litvak like me.

It had to have made Him proud.

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12 Responses

  1. mb says:

    A lovely “photo”!
    And I think the Rambam is too mystical!

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Daily, It’s becoming more obvious that we can only rely on HaShem, and certainly not on some big nation gone nuts. This has a bright side.

  3. Raymond says:

    Until not all that long ago in my life, I had always assumed that Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. However, just a few years ago, I was told that is not so, that actually Shabbat is holier than even Yom Kippur. And yet, Yom Kippur along with Pesach are said to be the two Jewish holidays most kept by the most Jews. Shabbat, in contrast, is hardly even acknowledged at all outside of the Orthodox Jewish community.

    I am not so sure that our Jewish people should be blamed for that. After all, Yom Kippur occurs one day per year, while Shabbat happens at the end of every single week of the year. And the more any given thing happens, the more that one grows accustomed to that thing. It is just a part of human nature…and human nature was created by G-d. Of course the fact that we are nevertheless commanded to keep the Sabbath, tells us that G-d expects us to overcome such a tendency. Still, when evaluating our religious behavior, I would think that G-d would take what I am saying into account, judging us with an extra dose of compassion and understanding.

  4. dr. bill says:

    I wish that COVID did not cause my absence from Yerushalayim for a second consecutive year. When I last visited, I davened Kol Nidre at the Great Synagogue, tefillot in their full glory. Exiting, the intersection of King George, Agron, Ramban, Azza, and Keren Hayesod was crowded with young adults, mostly from the nearby Mesorati Shul sitting, with their singing replacing the traffic and nearby protests that are normally encountered.

    I could only think how the varied observances among the diverse parts of Am Yisroel, were not coerced or the result of any legislation requiring compliance. But like brit milah, Leil Pesach or the silence on the night of Tisha B’av in places it would least be expected, the early/ original anti-religious weltanschauung that enveloped early Zionist movement, is dying. No, it was not replaced by halakhic practice, but that anti-religious past is now a distant memory. Echoes of Rav Kook’s optimism coming to realization generations later.

    Were all to only recognize what is obvious and abandon the attitudes and rhetoric of the past, perhaps progress to yet brighter future could be slightly accelerated.

    your article struck a powerful vision; a gitte kvitel

    • Nachum says:

      Just a note- Masorti, i.e. Conservative, not Mesorati, perhaps the biggest chunk of Israel’s population and something entirely different.

      • dr. bill says:

        Sorry for misspelling Masorti. I admit I once entered the conservative synagogue to hear an orthodox professor discuss the megillah of Rut. He started his lecture by explaining that his only conservative strain (stain :)) was his vote in the last U.K. election.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Let’s abandon our use of “Weltanschauung” in English prose. It means world view or world outlook.

  5. Rahel says:

    The vast majority of Israelis either are religious enough to keep Shabbat fully or recognize Shabbat as traditional Jews. |They will either go to Shul, read Torah make one kiddush and eat a Shabbat meal even if they are not yet full Shabbat observers

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