Yom Kippur

Rabbi Bradley Artson
Rabbi Bradley Artson
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

Abner & Roslyn Goldstine Dean’s Chair

Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies

Vice President, American Jewish University

Rabbi Dr Bradley Shavit Artson (www.bradartson.com) has long been a passionate advocate for social justice, human dignity, diversity and inclusion. He wrote a book on Jewish teachings on war, peace and nuclear annihilation in the late 80s, became a leading voice advocating for GLBT marriage and ordination in the 90s, and has published and spoken widely on environmental ethics, special needs inclusion, racial and economic justice, cultural and religious dialogue and cooperation, and working for a just and secure peace for Israel and the Middle East. He is particularly interested in theology, ethics, and the integration of science and religion. He supervises the Miller Introduction to Judaism Program and mentors Camp Ramah in California in Ojai and Ramah of Northern California in the Bay Area. He is also dean of the Zacharias Frankel College in Potsdam, Germany, ordaining Conservative rabbis for Europe. A frequent contributor for the Huffington Post and for the Times of Israel, and a public figure Facebook page with over 60,000 likes, he is the author of 12 books and over 250 articles, most recently Renewing the Process of Creation: A Jewish Integration of Science and Spirit. Married to Elana Artson, they are the proud parents of twins, Jacob and Shira.  Learn more infomation about Rabbi Artson.

posted on September 25, 2023

Yom Kippur is intensely personal, a day of introspection and repentance on an individual level too.

The key to both atonement and repentance is confession, the Torah’s simple requirement that the sinner (individual or the people) confess the sin publicly, "Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins (Leviticus 16:21)," reminding us to confess for the ways we, as a people, have failed to live up to the highest standards of Torah, failed to answer God’s call to be a light to the nations, failed to become our truest selves.  At the same time as the Priest confesses our collective wrongdoing, we also confess our individual shortcomings and betrayals. When a person commits any wrong toward another person, thus breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes their guilt, they shall confess the wrong that they have done (Names 5:5 – 7)." The communal ritual traces an inner awareness – as we contemplate the gap between our potential and our deeds, between what we could have been and how we actually acted, we muster the courage to repent.

According to Rav Saadia Gaon, great philosopher and Talmudic sage of Medieval Baghdad, “Repentance entails 1) the renunciation of sin, 2) remorse, 3) the quest of forgiveness, and 4) the assumption of the obligation not to relapse into sin.” The day stands, therefore, on the edifice of honest self-scrutiny, on the optimism that human beings can grow toward the light, that we can discipline our errant behavior to express our highest ideals. Yom Kippur is a day in which the sanctuary of our heart, as well as the institutions we have established as a people, are held to a very high standard (God’s) and judged by that standard, not for the sake of smug self-congratulations, but because the work is great, and the Master is waiting to forgive.