American Rabbi Brant Rosen is an outspoken defender of Palestinian rights.
On Sunday night, the Jewish community will begin our annual Yom Kippur fast.
The physical deprivation is a crucial element of the day, but as with many faith traditions, the fasting itself isn’t really the point. Going without food and water is, rather, a device, intended to sharpen our senses and lead to reflection.
This reflection is notably, pointedly, not a personal pursuit. All through the Yom Kippur prayers, we’re called to do “cheshbon nefesh,” a moral accounting, as a community: “We have sinned,” we pray. “Forgive us.”
But though the rituals are ancient, they’re never far removed from modern life. Between our prayers, American Jews are sure also to discuss the current events that touch our community most deeply: the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Barack Obama’s recent meetings with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the United Nations’ recent Goldstone Report, in which both Israel and the Hamas government are accused of war crimes. To my great sorrow, however, many in the Jewish community have already rejected the latter out of hand.
Rather than jointly consider Israel’s acts in Gaza, carry out real cheshbon nefesh, and accept our communal responsibility, it has proven easier for many of us to employ communal defense mechanisms, and insist that in this particular case, there’s no need for reflection.