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A True Game Changer

Posted on 09/13/2013 @ 03:40 PM

With the conversations around a potential US military strike against Syria, the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, and Yom Kippur itself, it has felt like a very heavy week for all people, the Jewish people especially. Just taking this week as an example, the goal (as put out in the Educational Framework: “Teens will understand current social issues”) of engaging with our teens around current events and social challenges in an authentic way can seem daunting – and a bit depressing.

One model of combining current social issues and the relevant history can be found in the liturgy, as we look toward Yom Kippur and the accounting of our actions. We read:

There is no forgetfulness before Your throne of glory, and nothing is concealed from Your eyes. You remember each action—none of Your creations can hide themselves from you.

This statement of God’s omniscience presents a problem: how can we ask for God’s reprieve for any single event if God remembers EVERY action from the past year? How can we be sure we’ll ever be forgiven? Yet, the prayer continues:

Remember for our sake, Adonai our God, the covenant…which You swore to Abraham our father on Mount Moriah; and consider the binding with which Abraham our father bound his son Isaac on the altar, how he suppressed his compassion in order to perform Your will with a perfect heart.

With the story of binding of Isaac, we don’t ask God to forget everything we have done; we hope God will remember the moments when everything changed.

This model of focusing on the game-changing moments is a powerful educational approach. We don’t need to know EVERYTHING about 9/11, but we can focus on the way that it affects our country’s present (un)willingness to attack Syria. The Yom Kippur War is complex, but teens can look at the connections between the modern settlement and the peace movements, and Anwar Sadat’s visit to Israel in 1977.

As we head into Yom Kippur, may you find satisfaction as you reflect on the past year and look forward to even more game-changing moments in the year to come. G’mar Chatimah Tovah – may you be inscribed for a good year.

This post was written by Rabbi Zac Johnson, Director of Jewish Enrichment, Western States Hub.

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