Another Yom Kippur

Justin Regan (Courtesy of Regan)
Justin Regan (Courtesy of Regan)

By Justin Regan

It is said on Purim the world is turned upside down, and on Yom Kippur it is set right side up.

This phrase has been keeping me company on this impromptu Yom Kippur. It reminds me how the experience of Jews of my generation have been so unique, and possibly misleading. We Zillennials were born, raised and thrived in an upside-down Purim carnival world where Jews achieved the most acceptance and privilege they ever had before, while also enjoying an Israel that was prosperous, strong and flawed. The party went on right through Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, 9/11, the Second Intifada, Second Lebanon War and the rise of white supremacy in this country. We were so drunk on our successes we could not distinguish between the Mordechais and Hamans in our midst.

Fifty years after the Yom Kippur War, the Day of Atonement has come again and set everything right side up, in the grisliest way. This kind of slaughter had not been seen since the Shoah, and, for me, Israel never seemed so small, so vulnerable. Yet while many people and governments around the world, including those who are usually critical of Israel, said all the right things, many, many others did not. From political groups, to influencers, to academic institutions, responses varied from unabashed celebration, to more “moderate” responses of “they were asking for it,” to deafening silence. As nearly every Jew in the world grieved, many online, and even in the streets of this country, celebrated.

I, now, in a tiny way, know what it was like for every other generation of Jews before me to feel like there is no firm ground to stand on. For the first time in my life, I feel the fragility of our people. I’m afraid walking in my neighborhood while wearing a kippah. I’m afraid of being in a crowded room for fear I’ll overhear something dreadful. Sudden noises in the city make my brain think it’s from a nearby anti-Israel rally (even though it’s never that).

But most importantly, I’m scared of myself. I’m afraid that this fear in me will fester into hatred. I worry that phrases I hold dear like “remember you were strangers” and “just sing a song of shalom” will be replaced with vile ones like “every Jew a .22” and “not one inch.”

Writing about the importance of compassion right now feels like a chore. But there is no other alternative. As this terrible war continues, we must cling to our humanity and act on it with all that we have. Even while others cast theirs aside.

As we pray for peace in Israel and the safe return of our beloved brothers and sisters being held by terrorists, let us also pray to overcome hatred, so that eventually we may bring on the day when they sing songs of peace in all the city squares, and the world turns upside down, for good.

Prayer for the Deliverance From Hatred

Redeemer of Israel who delivered us from the iron furnace of Mitzrayim and the crematoriums of Europe, deliver us now from the hatred in our hearts.

Rescue us from the snare of Amalek and bring us into Your endless love,

So we may have the vision and will to build a future for all humanity under Your sukkah of peace.

Avinu Malkeinu we stand in Your presence, broken

Our hearts have no more blood left to bleed

Give us the strength to unharden our hearts

That we may take the next painful step on the path towards redemption

Our Divine Sovereign Who did miracles for the Patriarchs and Matriarchs

Who did miracles for us at the Sea of Reeds and Har Sinai

Please give us one more miracle

And unclench our fists,

Before it’s too late

Please, God

Before it’s too late

Amen, Selah

Justin Regan is the manager of marketing and communications at Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation. He lives in Baltimore.

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