Baseless Hatred, and Other Sins I (We?) Have Not Atoned For

Yom Kippur, we realized that we only had one copy of the Machzor (prayer book for the High Holidays) that the congregation was using. Fortunately, we also had another Machzor that I picked up when another congregation was giving them away. The Machzors were considerably different and we realized that the one that was given away had, among other differences, considerably fewer sins in the Al Cheits section.

Husband (counting sins): This Machzor has half as many sins as that Machzor. This one has only 1 sin per letter; the other one has 2 per letter.

Me: The person who committed more sins this year should use the Machzor with twice as many sins. Which of us is the bigger sinner?

Husband: Me.

Me: Oh good, we agree. I was going to say you as well.

(Husband laughs)

In the end, we occasionally switched Machzors. Regardless of which Machzor I was using, I kept having a few key thoughts throughout Yom Kippur:

  1. I could picture so many people looking at this list and feeling it inadequate for capturing all the sins committed this year, namely the ones committed by their enemies.
  2. I could picture so many people not even agreeing on what was and was not a sin committed this year. Take the riots for example. Were the riots a necessary means of achieving long-overdue justice when nothing else worked, or wanton destruction of property, businesses, livelihoods, disruption of essential services?
  3. There were a number of things that I couldn’t sincerely apologize for. Mainly around religious observance that I have scaled back, and do not regret scaling back, but other things as well. Like who among us would actually admit to baseless hatred? Everyone, myself included, thinks his/her hatred is righteous and justified. No one is ever going to think of his/her own hatred/anger as a sin.
Did anyone self-identify as a sinner this year? Or did we only identify others as the sinners? Photo by Nick Gavrilov on Unsplash

The question posed during the Dvar Torah discussion (amongst a congregation with largely similar views) was around how to forgive if you are angry at someone who has wronged you or someone close to you. Most of the discussion focused on how to not let the anger destroy you, how to use forgiveness to heal yourself, how to channel anger into action.

I agree with all of this. I understand the anger, though I don’t quite identify with it (my own reaction to 2020 is closer to defeatist, crippling exhaustion/ pessimism/ depression rather than anger; I largely don’t have enough energy, capacity, or passion to feel anger). But it also scared me. Because I could picture a parallel group of people with diametrically opposite views on who was to blame, what were the sins of 2020, who were the sinners, whom they feel anger towards, discussing the same question. Productive discourse is impossible amongst angry people.

I cannot say that I managed a lot of true-self reflection this Yom Kippur. Honestly, I find it hard to imagine anyone did.

20 comments

  1. On Yom Kippur we are supposed to feel as one with all the other Jews around the world. When we atone for the sins, they are not necessary our personal sins, although it is recommended to look deep into our own hearts, but they might be sins of a Jew somewhere in Timbaktu of outer Mongolia. Artscroll has little Vidui (confession) brochures with a short explanation of every sin pertaining to modern life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s true that discourse is impossible between angry people. I’m kind of off politics at the moment, because right now it’s just angry people shouting. It’s better here in the UK than in the US, but still quite bad, particularly in the media and Twitter (which I try to avoid).

    Liked by 3 people

    • I spend a good deal of energy convincing myself not to engage on social media. It’s either an echo chamber or, at best, a series of exchanges with potentially amusing insults. The best I’ve seen: “I hope you get really bad diarrhea!”

      Liked by 3 people

      • I think the echo chamber is created in large part, by the defriending of anyone who disagrees. Social media friendship is different from real friendship, but the conditionality feels very uncomfortable.
        I wish my feed had more of those amusing insults! Actual productive discourse is too much to ask for, unfortunately.
        I’ve been seeing more discourse / exchange of ideas / actual listening on Quora, actually. Makes me feel better that there are corners of the internet that aren’t a disaster.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I guess that is the Cancel Culture I’ve seen referred to lately. It does seem to be a problem, but I think it is a symptom more than a cause.

          “No one is ever going to think of his/her own hatred/anger as a sin.”
          I don’t know: I often find myself feeling guilty for my anger toward people like my landlady, who is quite entitled and privileged, yet will never admit it, and seems to be entirely oblivious of the lack of logic that often comes out of her mouth. I know that she lacks the training in critical thinking to be able to see that, and that her upbringing in the 50s in a Sundown Town shaped her inability to see that privilege, yet I am angry with her, and I know I should not be.
          Sharing this post, a bit late for Yom Tov, but still a good post.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I appreciate you sharing this. I am sorry to hear about your challenges with your landlady (who sounds like a difficult person not to feel anger towards), but I’m also heartened to hear that it is possible to feel anger and guilt. I think perhaps I do not give other people enough credit because I know my own faults too well.

          I have a tendency towards not only the justifiable anger/hatred towards people who cause/caused injustice, but also, hatred towards my former co-worker, who is objectively not a morally-bankrupt person, but I utterly couldn’t stand her and I just hate her. Actually, I hate her with more intensity than I hate people in the evil-wrongdoers type category for which hatred is justifiable (probably because I am fortunate not to know so many evil wrongdoer types personally).

          Rationally, I have no good reason to hate this person, (yes, she was irritating, useless, changed the work culture for worse and got paid way more than she deserved, but she wasn’t evil and didn’t personally harm me), and yet, I don’t feel the least bit guilty for hating her. Husband even suggested that this was an example of baseless hatred that I might try atoning for and I was like, What, no way! I am totally justified!

          Self-awareness is the first step, I suppose. Also assuming that not everyone is me.

          I love a thoughtful post after Yom Tov 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • 🙂 We aim to please in providing thoughts! 🙂
          Wow: I think I understand your anger toward this woman -I imagine that the same anger at Annapolis, and when I worked in tech, toward women who are are a drain on the rest of us, is what you felt. I shared that anger, even toward blameless colleagues, when a woman would make us look bad, reflecting upon all of us, and making life that much more difficult, whether by her stupidity or by her unmerited position, or by her urging nice shoes and makeup in a pulling-cable environment! Sorry, you see, that anger may not be so baseless, but for a man to see our pov may take a bit more explaining. Just as when I was growing up we were told that we had to be twice as smart and work twice as hard.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Your anger still sounds more noble. This was a female-dominated company in a female-dominated industry, so nothing she was doing was reflecting badly on women or making my life more difficult as a woman. She was just bad and useless at her job, paid too much (and paid more than me – the real insult!) and I really couldn’t stand anything about her!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Well, I’ve not managed to make my anger very useful: I got written up at one job for yelling at someone to “crack a book” so I really get it about incompetent co-workers. It’s hard to stand anything about someone who seems to be willfully ignorant. And getting paid more than the competent folks just adds insult to injury!
          Sympathetic hugs!

          Like

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