Ten Minutes of Torah: Delving into T’fiah (reprinted from reformjudaism.org)

REPRINTED FROM THE UNION OF REFORM JUDAISM’S: REFORMJUDAISM.org Ten Minutes of Torah Series
The N’ilah service on late Yom Kippur afternoon is notable for its image of the Gates of Repentance closing their doors. At this late and hungry hour, for the final time during the Day of Atonement, we are summoned to repentance. The fact that many Sages argue we can actually delay our atonement to the end of the Sukkot holiday does not lessen the drama of the moment.

At the end of N’ilah, often as the sun has set, we will hear the final blast of the shofar. We will also declare the most essential teaching of the entire season: God is Merciful! We actually chant this seven times, just to make sure we get the point. The Gates are closing, but the mercy of God never ends.

Ten Minutes of Torah: Yom Kippur Amidah

REPRINTED FROM THE UNION OF REFORM JUDAISM’S: REFORMJUDAISM.org Ten Minutes of Torah Series

In each Amidah for the Days of Awe, including Yom Kippur, there is an insertion regarding remembering us unto life. This imagery of the Book of Life is an important reminder that the Days of Awe are designed to help us deal with both the uncertainty of life and our responsibility to become better human beings. Nevertheless it is easy to mistake the imagery as reflective of a reality in which we are judged by God and, if found wanting, are punished with death. This is a theology that I do not find helpful.

Ten Minutes of Torah: Kol Nidrei

REPRINTED FROM THE UNION OF REFORM JUDAISM’S: REFORMJUDAISM.org Ten Minutes of Torah Series –

In Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, at the beginning of their first date, Woody asks Annie for a first kiss. As he explains it, he knows both of them will be thinking about it all through the night so wouldn’t it be better to get it out of the way and then enjoy the evening?

I think something similar happens on Kol Nidre as we listen to this most beautiful of melodies, asking God to forgive our shortcomings and transgressions. After the Kol Nidre chant is finished, traditionally – and included in the Mishkan HaNefesh pilot – we feature a verse from Numbers 14:20 wherein God says “I forgive you.”

At first glance, this verse seems strangely misplaced. We just asked that our vows be released and our failures forgiven. The service literally has just begun. The observance of Yom Kippur is barely started. And God says, “Okay. I forgive you.” Talk about anticlimactic! It would be understandable if we said, “Great. Let’s go home before God changes God’s mind!