Originally published October 3, 2019
Yom Kippur is upon us once again, and it is time to atone for our sins. When the Jewish people enter shuls around the world this week, they will ask for forgiveness from sins against G-d, but not against their fellow Man. That forgiveness must be sought by asking the persons themselves; G-d has no power to forgive you for those transgressions. In this time of political strife and turmoil, when arguments are waged online and in person, relationships are made or destroyed based on the tweets of millionaires in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. We should all take a minute to examine the need for forgiveness.
This past week, President Trump’s Ukraine scandal was a political Rorschach test; everyone saw what they wanted to see. If you like Trump, you read the summary of the phone call between him and President Zelensky and saw nothing wrong. If you hate Trump, you read the same summary and demanded that Trump be drawn and quartered on the streets of DC. If you like Trump, you see opportunistic Democrats and their media spokespeople try to tear this country apart in order to ram through their political agenda by appealing to their base’s bloodlust. If you hate Trump, you see brave journalistic firefighters and wonderful Democrats in Congress speak truth to power to bring down the most evil man in American history.
Since last Yom Kippur, this cycle has become a common occurrence. A few days before the Ukraine story dominated headlines, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist, became the flashpoint issue. If you think that climate change is going to destroy the planet in ten years, she is a hero, a wonderful person who tells it like it is, and mobilizes an army of young people to leave school and demand action. If you are looking for solutions instead of screaming about problems, you could view Thunberg as a tragic case of child abuse, where a teenager with depression and Asperger’s is being told the world is ending, and that the responsibility to save it is on her shoulders. Go back a few more weeks, and you’ll see fights over guns. A few more weeks, it’ll be healthcare. Then taxes, tweets, Russia, the list goes on and on.
These days, it seems like we are defined by our differences instead of our similarities. Those differences lead to debate, debate leads to arguments, and arguments lead to insults. You cannot scroll through a comments section on any mildly controversial topic without reading a bevy of attacks, both personal and professional. So in this time of the year, where forgiveness is of paramount importance, what should we do?
Fortunately, this is not only the time of forgiveness of others or penance for sins; it is a time of self-examination. Since the beginning of the month of Elul, the Jewish tradition of repentance has slowly been ramping up. First, we blow the shofar every day. Then we add S’lichos to daily prayers. Then Rosh HaShanah, where we spend most of our day in shuland listen to 100 shofar-blows. Then Ten Days of Repentance, followed by Yom Kippur, the most important day of the year. This is the time where we must examine our own actions and rhetoric and how they affect others.
When arguing with your friends about Ukraine, were you respectful, or did you call them raging lunatics? When commenting on the latest Trump tweet, did you roll your eyes and walk away, or did you demand that anyone who supported him was a racist? When Kamala Harris gave a campaign speech, did you thoughtfully rebut her political agenda, or attack her for her past infidelities? When you did this, whom did you insult? Were they anonymous online accounts whom you have no connection with – or family, friends, and community members? Every one of us who engaged in this behavior must perform his or her own self-examination.
The action taken isn’t only to seek forgiveness from those whom you may have maligned and attacked over the past year; it is also to help change you for the next year. Perhaps everyone you talk to about politics understands how the game is played. Divisions over politics may have zero effect on your relationships. Maybe you can go to your Democrat neighbors, call them open-borders, money-grubbing, gun-grabbing, socialist loonbags, and everything will stay the same. Maybe you can see your Republican colleagues in the office and say that they are racist, bigoted, hateful, Trump-loving capitalist pigs, and nothing will be altered. Except you will be a worse person for it. You will be a little more desensitized to the effects that are taken with these attacks. Now it’s no longer about policy or politics; it’s become personal.
We are in a divided time, but unity will not be handed down from whoever sits behind the Resolute Desk. It will only happen when each and every person decides that the relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers are to be respected. By all means, have the political debate; it is of utmost importance. Leave the personal attacks to the professionals – those whom we elect to club each other with mallets for our own amusement. Let’s examine ourselves, and forgive each other this Yom Kippur.
Moshe Hill is a political analyst who has written for The Daily Wire, The Queens Jewish Link, The Jewish Link of New Jersey and JNS.org. He is regularly featured on “The Josh M Show” podcast. Subscribe to aHillwithaview.com for more content from Moshe Hill. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/ahillwithaview and follow on Twitter @TheMoHill.