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Yom Kippur

October 7, 2016

            If you are old enough to remember Erich Segal’s excessively sentimental screenplay/novel Love Story, you probably also remember the famous catchphrase: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry!” To this day, I still cannot figure out what the author had in mind when he wrote this.

Jews around the world come together this week in observance of Yom Kippur-The Day of Atonement or Forgiveness. Segal, the son of a rabbi, may have been rebelling against a Jewish upbringing that teaches positive change begins with acts of contrition. A loving, nurturing relationship requires two soul mates willing to apologize for wittingly, or unwittingly, visiting hurt and pain upon one another. This, in effect, is the essence of Yom Kippur.

There is a stark similarity between the observances of Yom Kippur and the famous 12-Step program originally designed in 1939 by Alcoholics Anonymous. The American Psychological Association summarized the 12-Step program:

  • Admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion;
  • Recognizing a higher powerthat can give strength;
  • Examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
  • Making amends for these errors;
  • Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
  • Helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.

Prior to entering the synagogue on Yom Kippur, each Jew must be willing to recognize their shortcomings; come to terms with their hurtful addictions and painful behavior. Entering the synagogue is giving recognition to the presence of a Higher Power who can provide strength and hope in moments of despair. On Yom Kippur, the synagogue sanctuary becomes the safe place for admitting one’s errors, making amends for one’s mistakes in the presence of a community of worshippers also in search of a new approach to living.

It all begins with a willingness to say, “I’m sorry.”

Rabbi Howard Siegel


© 2017 Beth Tikvah Synagogue, Richmond, BC, Canada
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