High Holiday Reader 5783
Tali Adler, Yitzhak Bronstein, Yitz Greenberg, Shai Held, Elie Kaunfer, Avi Killip, Aviva Richman, Micha'el Rosenberg, Deborah Sacks Mintz, Avi Strausberg, Jeremy Tabick, Ethan Tucker, Dena Weiss
Prayers can come in two kinds. Some talk about God (“God is great/mighty/awesome…”), while others talk to God (“You are…”), placing us in direct relationship with the Almighty: subject to Master, child to Parent, face to Face. This happens so poignantly in a poem that appears, according to many traditions, several times in the Yom Kippur tefillah, where we say directly to God,
כִּי אָנוּ עַמֶּךָ וְאַתָּה אֱלֹקֵינוּ
אָנוּ בָנֶיךָ וְאַתָּה אָבִינוּ
אָנוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ וְאַתָּה אֲדוֹנֵנוּ
אָנוּ קְהָלֶךָ וְאַתָּה חֶלְקֵנוּ…
For we are Your nation, and You are our God;
We are Your children, and You are our Father;
We are Your servants, and You are our Master;
We are Your community, and You are our Portion…
The Torah tells us, after all, that “it is on this very day that God will atone for you to purify you from all your sins; before God, you shall be purified” (Vayikra 16:30). Yom Kippur is a day of atonement from sins, a day of being purified, and, all importantly, a day of being “before God.” In this time, above all others, we must push ourselves to stand in direct relationship with God and say, “We are Yours… and You are ours.”
But this alone fails to reflect the totality of our relational bonds. In Mishnah Yoma 8:9, we learn from this same verse that Yom Kippur only atones for ritual sins, ones that have to do with being “before God,” but not for moral sins, which derive from our being in relationship with other people. We need to appreciate and improve our relationships - all of them - in order to have a meaningful and successful High Holiday period.
“קהלך אנו “means “we are Your community,” which captures this idea perfectly. We wrap our arms around each other’s shoulders and sing out loud that we are a single, united community; we have come together. And, at the same time, we turn to God and say directly, face to Face, “we are Yours.” In this reader, you will find teachings and activities to help you explore our relationships with each other and with God as we make our way through the Days of Awe. May this learning help us achieve our atonement and purification - together, and before God.