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?
Me: Oh good, we agree. I was going to say you as well.
In the end, we occasionally switched Machzors. Regardless of which Machzor I was using, I kept having a few key thoughts throughout Yom Kippur:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
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.