Day of Atonement 2008

Today is the Day of Atonement. I’m fasting, and this computer is acting awkwardly. So don’t be too surprised if this post comes out garbled!

I have a memory that relates to the Day of Atonement. When I was at Jewish Theological Seminary, I attended a small group that focused on theology: how can we believe in God and Judaism, when historical-criticism seems to rip at the fabric of the Jewish faith? I’m not Jewish, but I wanted to see how they handled this issue.

I was disappointed overall, but there was an interesting exchange between two women. One said that she didn’t go to services on that year’s Yom Kippur. Rather, she sat alone in a park, and God gave her revelations about herself and her relationships.

Another woman then responded, “You said you don’t get anything out of services, but maybe God wanted you to go to them.” At the time, I guess I sided with the second woman: She relied on divine revelation rather than a “Do your own thing,” liberal sort of religion. Plus, in those days, I assumed that God only spoke to evangelicals–and maybe mainline Protestants (when I was more generous).

Nowadays, I tend to side with the first woman. Isn’t that the important thing: to receive a transformative experience, rather than going through a bunch of empty rituals year after year? I’m not saying that Jewish Yom Kippur rituals are empty, but not everyone gets anything out of them.

I guess that’s what I’m thinking about on this Day of Atonement: how can it be transformative? Because, to be honest, it’s often a day when I just go hungry. I do devotionals as well, but I usually go back to my old ways of doing things the following morning.

To be honest, there are things that I’m not sorry about. I do not apologize for lusting after women. I will not beat myself up for having resentment or fear. I cannot really control these things, so how can I repent over them?

But there are things that I do regret. I’m sorry that I’ve yelled at those who love me, and I should watch myself so I don’t do that in the future. I’m sorry for the times when I’ve looked down on certain people, as if I’m too good for them. And I hope to get to the point where I can respect the humanity of everyone, whether I like the person or not.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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