Arev Yom Kippur ... The eve of the Day of Atonement. After the period of reflection and engagement with others between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, this is a moment to turn to internal considerations and the relationship between the individual and G-d.
As part of the prayers for the Day of Atonement, the Vidui, the Al Cheyt or recital of sins, is perhaps the most important. (Modern Judaism being what it is, there are a myriad of translations and modern variations on the Vidui/Al Chet.) A key word: Ashamnu ... "we have sinned" is a recognition of individual and communal failures. The Al Cheyt is a recognition and statement about sins by ourselves (and our community) against others, against oneself, against G-d through action ... and inaction.
It is clear:
One can do wrong purposefully and explicitly ... and one can do wrong inadvertently and indirectly.
One can do wrong through action and words ... and one can do wrong through inaction and silence.
And, one can ... one should ... one must act to recognize the wrongs that we, all -- as individuals and communities, have done, seek to redress them, and work to avoid them into the future.
There is a silence that bears heavily on the heart at this time: the silence in our political leadership and among too many of us on the damage we are doing to the planetary system, the risks of climate change, and the urgent necessity for meaningful change to change our path toward something that enables sustainable prosperity for humanity.
This is Yom Kippur."a time of severity".
This is a night for confession.
So let us be honest.
If ever there was a time for candor, this is it.
We humans are not good with limits.
We are pushing the planet and its animal resources to the limit.
We want what we want when we want it.
We pretty much take, hunt, fish, and consume until someone or something stops us or until there is no more to be taken.
Do you remember the Viddui we will be reciting in a few minutes? It’s the Confession prayer that lists our sins alphabetically.
We abuse. We besmirch. We consume. We destroy. We excuse ourselves. We forget the consequences of our actions. We are greedy.
I could continue through the alphabet, and I should go on because, as the saying goes, although religion ought to comfort the afflicted, religion also needs to afflict the comfortable. And we truly do need to be uncomfortable tonight. Remember an alternate name for Yom Kippur is Yom Ha-Din…the Day of Judgment. This night is meant to be a time for severity.
We are living in a time of consequences, a time where humanity's future (and our own, unless you are on your deathbed, futures) require confronting Inconvenient Truth, and acting in this regard.
The individual matters and we need, for Yom Kippur, to judge ourselves with "severity" -- to push our own comfortable ways as to whether we 'sin' and damage and harm unknowingly or knowingly.
I (and my family) recycle ... I (and my family) walk and bike often where others are jumping in their cars ... I engage with others to educate about climate issues and energy smart practices/opportunities ... I have changed my career to work solely on clean energy / climate mitigation related opportunities ...
But, judging in severity, there is certainty that "I" can do more.
"I" can find more droplets to carry as part of a larger effort to douse the mounting flames of Climate Chaos.
Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement as individual -- an individual's reckoning. Yet ... yet ... yet ... it is also communal, the individual is part of something larger.
We live within a society. And, while each of us has a voice and role in that society, there are leaders. And, we expect leaders to show leadership. Truthfully, there is no such thing as that perfect person (take a look and reflect on the Al Cheyt) nor is there such a thing as a perfect leader. But, we should recognize our own faults and seek to change our patterns. And, we should look to our leaders' faults and seek to help them change for the better.
Most of all, we cannot afford more of the same timid politics when the future of our planet is at stake. Global warming is not a someday problem, it is now.Who said this? Senator Barack Obama in 2007.
Sadly, during the 2012 election, our political elite provided crickets ... true climate silence without discussion of climate in debates or speeches.
Earlier this year, President Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University -- an excellent, moving, thoughtful, inspiring speech which was accompanied by issuance of a plan (a troubled plan ... but ...)
Amid our horrific political environment, where one political party is dominated and control by individuals and organizations suffering from an acute case of anti-science syndrome, real (political reality, not physical reality) barriers exist to the beneficial and cost-effective paths to mitigate Climate Chaos that should be at the centerpiece of national discussion and national investment.
What is a barrier to necessary action?
That too few leaders speak truthfully and forcefully on climate change. (To be clear, there are important exceptions. For example, Senator Whitehouse a shining example to the White House and others about leaning forward to speak forcefully and thoughtfully on climate change.)
The President's speech was masterful and refreshing ... but ... but ...
We must encourage him ... and other leaders .. to move beyond political expediency to leadership, to truthful and forceful engagement to help move the Overton Window on climate change from delusional science denial and ridicule to realistic engagement with the risks and opportunities.
We sin ... we do wrong through action and words.
We sin, we do wrong through inaction and silence.
We sin by not doing what we can ...