Once Again, Politics Trumps Religion

Last week (September 25, 26) was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, celebrated by Jews world-wide. Yom Kippur is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year and was instituted in Leviticus 23:26-28, In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and you shall not do any work … For on that day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the LORD. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day. In the Old Testament, it was a day when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and made atonement for his sin and the sins of the nation with the blood of sacrificial bull. Today, with no high priest, Holy of Holies, or sacrificial system, it is a day set aside to afflict the soul, “to atone for the sins of the past year; sins between man and G-d, not for sins against another person. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible. That must all be done before Yom Kippur.” Thus in the service there are petitions for forgiveness as well as prayers of confession, such as: “Forgive us the breach of positive commands and negative commands, whether or not they involve an act, whether or not they are known to us.” Most of these sins involve mistreatment of other people, and most of them by an uncontrolled tongue (offensive speech, scoffing, slander, etc). This sin of “lashon ha-ra” (lit: the evil tongue), is considered a very serious sin in Judaism. The Chicago Tribune reported that Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann attended a Yom Kippur service at a synagogue in Lakeview, IL, as a guest of one of its members. It created an interesting moment for the Anshe Emet congregation known for openness and tolerance especially to its LGBT members. The Rabbi welcomed her as he would any visiting dignitary but others were offended by her presence and walked out. The Tribune reported that one man immediately sent a campaign donation to Bachmann’s Democratic rival saying, “I felt that the best way to ‘honor’ Ms. Bachmann’s visit was to make a contribution to your campaign.  Even though I do not vote in Minnesota, please do everything in your power to take away this evil woman’s soapbox.” The Tribune also reported that her rival’s campaign saw an increase of 400% in donations from Chicagoland last week. If we did not live in such a politically correct culture, this story’s headline might have read: Once Again, Politics Trumps Religion; or So Much for Forgiveness; or Confession Short-Circuited By Protest; or Sins of the Tongue Slandered; or The Intolerance of Tolerance. Wisely, the Rabbi noted for the reporter that the inscription on the lintel outside the sanctuary declares the congregation true values, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.” Amen.

2 thoughts on “Once Again, Politics Trumps Religion

  1. cathy machak

    The sins of the tongue are many. Most of us look for the big sins, like smoking and drinking beer. But to mouth off to a parent or boss. That is another thing.

  2. Paul

    Apparently all religions are at risk of being hijacked. Of course, I suppose all of it begins with a hijacking of language. If you can twist words to mean whatever you want them to mean, then what’s to stop you from twisting anything that depends on a common understanding of words? It’s all around us.

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