The significance of Yom Kippur for Humanistic Jews

Please come to Bentley Village, now known as Vi, to participate in a Humanistic Jewish commemoration of Yom Kippur with members of the Humanistic Jewish Havurah of Southwest Florida. The event begins at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 23, and will be followed by a tasty break-the-fast.

Reservations can be secured by mailing a check payable to “HJH” in the amount of $25 per person to Joan Weinstein, P.O. Box 110285, Naples, FL 34108. The deadline for making your reservation is September 19.

Jewish holidays have become the lifeblood of Jewish identity. They are regular events in the lives of most Jews. Even if you never study Jewish history, you cannot escape it if you celebrate Jewish holidays. The calendar of Jewish holidays presents a short and “repetitious” introduction to the Jewish past.

The rabbinic dates for established holidays are unavoidable. They are familiar annual milestones when Jews become most aware of their Jewish identity. Without a sense of community with other Jews, the holidays fall flat. Doing them at the same time, yet differently, fuses our history with our Jewish identity.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur open our Jewish year with the most important message of Jewish history. Human dignity is not the gift of destiny. It is a human achievement requiring courage and human self-reliance. If we seek to reconcile ourselves with anybody, we reconcile ourselves with the men and women who share our struggle and who offer us the only realistic support we can expect.

Humanistic Jews insist that their holidays give them integrity. The prayers and stories that turn the Jewish experience into a testimony to supernatural reliability have no place in our holiday celebration. To say one thing and to believe another is not an act of poetry. Humanistic Judaism has created a way to approach the Jewish holidays that is both pragmatic and meaningful.

The High Holidays are a time when humanistic Jews place great emphasis on self- reflection and self-judgment, acknowledging human power to re-evaluate one’s own life and to change it for the better. That is why Jewish holidays have no intrinsic divine connection for humanistic Jews.

Following is a sample reading from a humanistic Jewish Yom Kippur service:

Let us ask ourselves hard questions.

For this is the time for truth.
How much time did we waste
In the year that is now gone?
Did we fill our days with life
Or were they dull and empty?
Was there love inside our home
Or was the affectionate word left unsaid?
Was there a real companionship with our children
Or was there a living together and a growing apart?
Were we a help to our mates
Or did we take them for granted?
How was it with our friends:
Were we there when they needed us or not?
The kind deed: Did we perform it or postpone it?
The unnecessary gibe: Did we say it or hold it in?
Did we live by false values?
Did we deceive others?
Did we deceive ourselves?
Were we sensitive to the rights and feelings
Of those who worked with us?
Did we acquire only possessions
Or did we acquire new insights as well?
Did we fear what the crowd would say
And keep quiet when we should have spoken?
Did we mind only our own business
Or did we feel the heartbreak of others?
Did we live right,
And if not,
Then have we learned and will we change?

Yom Kippur climaxes the self-examination begun on Rosh Hashanah. Humanistic Jews make Yom Kippur a time of self-forgiveness and forgiveness of others.