The Jewish high holy day season culminates in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, this year on September 30th, and brings patterns of behavior that often confuse and mystify our neighbors.
Why do so many nominally irreligious, unaffiliated people flock to long, demanding services on this solemn day of fasting and prayer? British scholar Chaim Bermant offered one insightful answer. “Not all Jews believe in God,” he wrote, “but most like to think that God believes in them. He is so central to their history that to suggest that He never existed in the first place would be to question the purpose of their own existence.”
The overriding theme of repentance—of t’shuvah, or return—gives a chance to re-affirm that sense of purpose, as both an individual and a people.
May Americans also recognize that we and our country also serve a purpose that’s far grander and more significant than our personal comfort.