Before Yom Kippur, 5773 (which this year fell on September 26, 2012), Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak restated his proposal for a unilateral withdrawal of Jews from Judea-Samaria. As reported this time, his proposal would give tens of thousands of Jews who live in Judea-Samaria a choice: return to pre-1967 borders or remain as you are and live under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA); Jews who live in the communities of Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion would remain outside the newly-formed PA-controlled area. Barak made these statements just before Yom Kippur, he said, because Yom Kippur is a good time to look at the facts; the time has come, he suggested, to make decisions that recognize reality. He suggested that his proposal was based partly on a ‘concern’ for the PA, the EU and the US.
No doubt, many Religious Nationalists would reject such a proposal out of hand. They would reject Mr Barak’s reality. The lands of Judea and Samaria, they might claim, are ancestral Jewish homeland. They are not negotiable; and, they might argue, our reality certainly does not recognize any Arab claim that is based on what Nationalists say are lies about the Jewish people.
Nevertheless, Minister Barak is not just another Leftist looking to surrender with a Utopian’s optimism that this is the surrender that creates peace. He is a member of Israel’s government. He has power. He has the ear of the Prime Minister. We should listen to him.
On one level, Mr Barak is correct. Yom Kippur is indeed a time to reflect. It is a time to be concerned. It is the perfect day to look at reality and fact. But the reality of the Jewish Yom Kippur has nothing to do with the Arab, the EU or the US. The reality of Yom Kippur is not about appeasing those who would destroy us. True, if we were pagans, we would make sacrifices to appease the powerful because otherwise, unappeased, those powers would destroy us (sound familiar?): pagan gods are not forgiving. But, Mr Barak, we are not pagan. Our Yom Kippur is not about gods who require sacrifices to mollify their anger. Our Yom Kippur is about the very personal relationship we have with a loving G-d who gives us a special day to activate our spiritual ‘refresh’ button. It is a day to reflect on how we relate to our Creator—not the Arab or the EU.
How do we know this is the reality of our Yom Kippur? Read the Yom Kippur prayer-book: it’s all there—and it’s very clear (if you want to read more about this, see The Koren Yom Kippur Mahzor, translation and commentary by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Jerusalem, 2012).
We do not become reflective on Yom Kippur, as Mr Barak suggests, because our destiny is tied to our relationship with the Arab. We do not have a special day of prayer to mollify the power of the US or UN. We may indeed bow on Yom Kippur. But we do not bow to brutal gods or foreign powers.
Our Yom Kippur is not about surrendering to those who hate us. The power we turn to on Yom Kippur is not one who lies about us and desires to butcher us. The Power we face loves and pardons us. The Power we face is One who gives us in love a day of atonement, a day of pardoning and forgiveness so that we can renew ourselves and start a new year with hope and pride. The Power we bow to gives us life and sustenance. He has the ability to remove evil from the world—and we pray to Him on this day to do that. The power that Mr Barak bows to would impose evil onto the world, not remove it. The others he would bow to appear to have no love whatsoever for us. They offer nothing. They are indifferent—or worse.
I don’t know about Mr Barak, but if I had to choose between a G-d who loves me and a god who hates me, I prefer the former, not the latter; and in case there’s any doubt about the gods that Mr Barak would serve, you should note that they rejected outright his surrender proposal even before the ink was dry on his full interview. Then, over the next thirty-six hours, the leaders of Egypt and Iran spoke before the United Nations. They restated how they feel about the Jewish people: they have no leniency, love or hope to offer us.
Meanwhile, as they spoke, our Yom Kippur prayers told us repeatedly that this was a day of pardon, love, hope and forgiveness—a day to renew.
I don’t know about you, Mr Barak. But I know which Yom Kippur I prefer. I know before whom I choose to bow. I know the difference between love and hate.
This is our Yom Kippur, Mr Barak, not theirs.