A universal Jewish holiday
Yom Kippur is the most characteristic and most respected commemoration of the Jewish liturgy, but its meaning transcends it, since it has a much broader dimension. The particular and the universal go hand in hand.
Yom Kippur (in Spanish, Day of Forgiveness) begins today at nightfall and ends late Thursday night. It is preceded by forty days of reflection. The Hebrew word kippur is related to the verb lejaper which means "to improve", "to repair" and "to forgive".
Yom Kippur is the most characteristic and most respected commemoration of the Jewish liturgy, but its meaning transcends it, since it has a much broader dimension. The particular and the universal go hand in hand. In this sense, it is a call to rectify conduct towards our fellow men, to return to the ethical meaning of existence, to remember the deceased, to reflect on the meaning of life and time. All these concepts are valid for all times and for all human beings.
It is really significant that people of the 21st century come together (in the original sense of the word “to come together again”) and are moved by reading prayers of praise to the Creator and of repentance that are, some of them, more than two millennia old. antiquity. Others originated in the diaspora where "an incredible theology germinated", as Jorge Luis Borges admired, who signed: "For centuries, throughout Europe, the Chosen People were confined to neighborhoods that had some or a lot of leper colonies and that, paradoxically, they were magical hothouses of Jewish culture.”
Within this framework, this festivity asks us – in addition to a total fast – three activities that represent human beings in all their dimensions (these begin in Spanish with the letter “t”): Teshuvá, Tefilá and Tzedaká. The first, Teshuva is personal repentance and can also mean returning (to oneself); the second, Tefillá (prayer, request), is the relationship with the Creator. The third is Tzedakah (it is much more than "charity") in dealing with our fellow men. Tzedakah means doing justice. When we support those in need, we are restoring the balance that was once broken and that caused an injustice that we are repairing.
These days we are going through a distressing moment for humanity, due to the pandemic that is harassing us, without being able to foresee its end. We are subjected to uncertainty, social isolation and unfortunately the loss of loved ones. In this context, the great religions offer us shelter and hope to withstand the crisis. Prayers for health take on new and profound meanings. Due to the pandemic, services in synagogues will be restricted to a few parishioners. Many will have to follow them online.
One final thought. We all declare ourselves defenders of justice but we are indifferent to the millions of human beings who die from hunger, preventable diseases, useless wars, environmental destruction. Between 720 and 821 million people suffer from hunger (FAO 2020). The pandemic has accentuated the differences between the ultra-rich and the rest of the population. It's time to return to solidarity before it's too late,
The universe can be better! and for this, we must all adjust our behavior to ethical principles, even in our micro cosmos. This celebration is a good time to reconcile with the Almighty and with human beings. As the poets pointed out: “for a day human beings and angels are equal”.
By Mario Eduardo Cohen, La Nación newspaper
President of the Center for Research and Diffusion of Sephardic Culture