By: Jeff Dunetz
This article first appeared on The Lid and is published here with permission.
With the setting of the sun on Monday, Jews across the world will begin the observance of the “Yomim Noraim “(Days of Awe), a ten-day period that is book-ended by the High Holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. This year, the High Holidays come at a key time for America as the leftist-dominated Democratic Party continues to push America away from personal responsibility and toward reliance on government and, even worse, socialism.
The High Holiday period is all about personal responsibility. All the prayers and readings are just tools to help us look inward, formulate a personal accounting of our deeds over the past year, good and bad–all to understand what we have learned and still need to need to learn and correct.
Even the steps needed for an individual to atoning for sins go against progressive/socialist values.
Jews are taught that our Maker is not like a big massive government that will fix everything for us. For earthly-type mistakes, we must first approach the people we harmed to request forgiveness and, if necessary, make restitution to them. Then we must discover what led us to behave that way and correct the flaw catalyzing such behavior. Only after those steps can we approach God for absolution. It’s not that God cannot fix everything, but his direct involvement would destroy the delicate balance set up during creation. In other words, the universe works best with limited government.
The creation narrative in Genesis explains that man is created in God’s image. With those words, the Torah is not teaching us that we are all dead ringers for the “big guy upstairs.” If that were the case, everyone’s driver’s license would have the same picture, the Miss America contest would seem more than a bit creepy, crimes would go unsolved as eyewitness testimony would be useless, and everyone would have the same DNA, which would force Discovery ID to go out of business because of a lack of programming.
The idea of being “created in God’s image” is supposed to teach us that just as God acts as a free being without prior restraint to do right and wrong, so does man. Our Maker performs “good” as a matter of his own free choice. And because we are created in his image, man also has the opportunity to do the right thing as a matter of free choice. Only through free choice can man truly be “in the image of God.”
That is why God created a world where both good and evil can operate freely. The Rabbis explained this when they said, “All is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven” (Talmud, Berachot 33b). In other words, God controls all the options we have, but it is up to man to pick between good and bad.
In an English dictionary, the word sin is defined as, “Any act regarded as such a transgression, esp. a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.”
There is no word in Hebrew matching that definition. Instead, the word used on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is “chet.” It is an archery term referring to an arrow that “missed the target.” The person who missed the mark is considered to have made a mistake due to a lack of focus, concentration, or skill. The purpose of the High Holidays is for each of us to determine why we missed the mark. The answer cannot come from someone else or from the government. It has to come from inside each person.
In the same vein, the Hebrew word commonly translated as repentance, “Teshuvah,” actually means return. In other words, as in, we returned to the correct path. Its real meaning is much more than just repentance, which is a word that implies merely feeling sorry for what you have done. Teshuvah involves changing what it is inside you that led you to go off-course (a concept that too many politicians should adopt).
The Rabbis tell us the only way to do “Teshuvah” is by undergoing personal reflection and personal choice (opposed to governmental regulation). God gives us a roadmap in the Torah, Prophets, Psalms, and other sacred texts. He even gave us coaches (Rabbis), but to truly change ourselves and ultimately change the world, we have to discover the best way to read the roadmap for ourselves. Progressives and socialists believe that government is God. The government doesn’t create a roadmap. It creates an inch by inch, step-by-step rulebook meant to remove all personal decisions.
In its purest essence, the Jewish High Holiday period is the antithesis of the various forms of socialist and progressive government.
We learn from the “Ten Days of Awe” that we must be honest with ourselves and rely on our own introspection to find the right path.
We learn that God may be evaluating the path we take, and he provides a road map to find the right target. But he does not and will not force us to do things his way.
Socialist and progressive governments take that free will away; they make the decisions, determine the correct path (at least the ones they believe is correct), eliminate the need for introspection, and the opportunity for each one of us to find those sparks of God within each one of us and in the world.
Progressive/socialist governments take from their citizens the greatest joy of all— finding out for themselves the path that will draw them closer to their creator. Discovering that personal path is what the “Yomim Noraim” are all about.
To everyone who is reading this post, your friends and families, Jewish or Gentile:
שנה טובה ומתוקה
May you have a happy, healthy, and sweet new year
Read more from Jeff Dunetz at The Lid.