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Judaism: What G-d Wants to Do on Yom Kippur

Let's imagine G-d is talking to us on Yom Kippur.
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 6:30 PM



 I don’t really enjoy sitting in judgment on you on Yom Kippur or any time.

In many ways you deserve every bit of the harshness of a negative verdict. You know the rules, and you have a record of breaking them. You can’t plead ignorance and ask for special treatment.

You often shake your finger at Me and say, “Are You looking, God? Here comes a transgression. We defy You to send down the hellfire and brimstone!”

Yet I have to say I am rather hesitant to be tough on you. I actually do listen to the words of the Yom Kippur prayers, including the quotation from the Torah (Num. 15:26), “What the people have done was unintentional, ki l’chol ha’am bish’gagah”.

There are certainly human beings who enjoy their sins and commit them on purpose. But I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for the others, however few, however many they are. They get embroiled in movements and minhagim that tempt them towards things they should avoid. They go through hard, even excruciating, experiences that shake their faith, and they no longer know which way to turn.

I don’t want anything but good for My people. Maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on them. Maybe I should try and face them with fewer difficult challenges and make it easier for them to follow their true, moral nature.

Maybe, though, they should help Me by showing more courage and resisting the yetzer ha’ra. Maybe they should also learn to listen to their conscience.

Broadcasting One's Sins
 
There is a difference between specifying one’s sins and publicising them.

Specifying a sin has the advantage that one identifies an action and where it went wrong and enables the sinner to work on eradicating that particular action in future. The Shulchan Aruch recommends specifying sins, but it does not make it a legal requirement (Orach Chayyim 607).

There is a separate issue of whether the sin should be publicised in some way. Here there are two points of view. The Book of Proverbs says, “He who covers up his sins will not prosper” (28:13), whilst the Psalmist says, “A person who covers up sin is to be praised” (32:1). In the Talmud (Yoma 76b) the first verse is applied to those who sin against other people, while the second verse applies to sins between man and God.

However, there is a down-side to publicising sins against others. From one point of view it can encourage the sinner to repent and the victim to forgive, and help to deter the public from sinning. But on the other hand it might cause embarrassment all round and actually make matters worse. It all depends on the circumstances.

The whole discussion should influence everybody to be careful not to sin in the first place. My Torah says, “Sin waits at the door and tries to draw you in, but you can rule over it” (Gen. 5:7). I will do My best to seal you in the Book of Life, but don’t leave it all to Me.