After someone returns from a vacation, they are often asked: What were the highlights? While the entire experience was memorable and worthwhile, there are usually a few unique and titillating times that are takeaway moments.
It is no secret that the two most celebrated Jewish holidays are Yom Kippur and Passover. Why these two? There are lots of great days and celebrations throughout the year. What is it about these two holidays that are so consequential that Jews across the world consider them to be can’t miss? Why is that?
I believe the answer is that for people to function successfully, there needs to be two ingredients:
#1. an origin narrative
#2. hope for the future
Passover is our origin narrative and Yom Kippur is our hope for the future.
It is understood that to know where we are going, we need to know where we are coming from. In the collective Jewish memory, we know that we left Egypt on a Thursday after a full year’s display of miracles undoing the evil Pharaoh and his followers while fortifying and edifying the Israelites to prepare them to leave and embrace the Torah at Mount Sinai.
In fact, the entire Torah service that we experience regularly in the synagogue is a replica of what took place at Sinai 3334 years ago!
Despite receiving The Ten Commandments and being dubbed a Nation of Priests and Holiness, 40 days after receiving the Commandments, the Israelites sinfully built the Golden Calf. When Moses descended from Mount Sinai, it was feared that the relationship with G-d was now severed. We had the greatest opportunity to join forces with G-d; but we blew it.
80 days later, on the first Yom Kippur after slavery, G-d pronounced the famous phrase - Salachti Kidvracha: I have forgiven you according to your request.
This is a great lesson for teachers, parents, and grandparents. Our task is to instill a sense of origin in our children, so they know where they are coming from. Additionally, we can teach and inculcate the message that we are inevitably going to err along the way and that G-d is loving and forgiving. Like our own parents, G-d loves us and wants only the best for our nation.
At the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, it has been our goal for 100 years to strengthen our community so that our origin narrative can continue to be disseminated from generation to generation.
Community Scholar in Residence
Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey