Yom Kippur: Take Isaiah into the Streets for 18 Minutes!

On Yom Kippur, about 2500 years ago, the Prophet Isaiah broke the conventional pattern of prayer and fasting. What he said then has been lifted into sacred immortality as the Prophetic reading for Yom Kippur.

Today, a group of Jewish teachers,  rabbis, and leaders call us to emulate Isaiah in a new way: Let us walk for 18 minutes beyond our congregational walls. Let us carry Isaiah into our towns and neighborhoods and cities.

“From California to the New York Island” have come together rabbis and teachers to urge our congregations to undertake this effort: Among them are (all affiliations are for identification only):

Dr. Barbara Eve Breitman (Spiritual Direction at RRC & HUC);  Rabbi Sharon Brous (Ikar); Aryae Coopersmith (co-founder, House of Love and Prayer & Coastside Torah Circle); Rabbi Laura Geller (emerita, Temple Israel of Hollywood);  Arlene Goldbard (president,  The Shalom Center);  Abigail Grafton (Shomeret, Aquarian Minyan); Dr.  Susannah  Heschel (Dartmouth University);  Rabbi Burt Jacobson (emeritus, Kehillah); Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie (Storahtelling & Labshul); Rabbi Michael Lerner (Tikkun); Rabbi Mordechai Liebling (RRC); Rabbi Moshe Levin (emeritus, Ner Tamid, San Francisco); Ruth Messinger (founder, American  Jewish World Service) Rabbi Marcia Prager (P’nai Or Philadelphia & dean, ALEPH Ordination Program); Rabbi David Seidenberg (Neo-Hasid, Ecology and Kabbalah);  Rabbi Susan Talve (Central Reform Congr, St Louis); Rabbi Arthur Waskow (founder, The Shalom Center); Rabbi Sheila Weinberg (Inst for Jewish Spirituality); Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz (founder, Uri L'Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice). 

On that walk, each congregation can choose the stance that feels fitting for itself. We encourage awareness that we are not abandoning prayer but carrying prayer and/or the Isaiah Haftarah into public space:

 For instance, perhaps we walk in prayerful silent vigil, wearing the tallitot whose fringes reach out as threads of connection with the world.

 Perhaps we prayerfully sing: “Olam chesed yibaneh! If we build a world with love, then God will build the world with love!”

Perhaps we carry signs quoting from Isaiah or from Rabbi Heschel: ”Some are guilty; All are responsible!” “My legs are praying!” And from Dr. King: “The fierce urgency of Now!”

Perhaps the congregation commissions some of its members to walk forth while others continue in the building, in both physical spaces continuing a Yom Kippur appeal to America’s conscience.

Perhaps (as one congregation in Santa Cruz has already decided), congregants join with those of other religious communities for a public gathering before the Yom Kippur prayer service begins. 

(One year ago, P'nai Or of Philadelphia did carry Isaiah into the streets. Here are a photo of that effort and a close-up of one of the signs they carried.)


 On Yom Kippur, we reawaken the ancient outcry of Isaiah: “What is the fast that God requires of us? Not only to remember by fasting what it feels like to go hungry, but beyond that to feed the hungry, house the homeless, break off the handcuffs and leg-irons fastened on prisoners by wicked power!” 

 Isaiah went beyond the conventional gatherings for prayer and fasting, to demand this commitment of compassion. 

This year we face a plague of governmental contempt for conscience and hatred for the poor; subjugation of refugees and women and prisoners, of minority racial groups and religions, and many other human beings; poisoning of our air and food and water, even of Mother Earth. To our celebration of the God of Truth, we hear the power-obsessed jeer: “Truth is not truth!”

 Already American consciences are reawakening. Let us add our voices.  

Let us do today what Isaiah did: Go beyond our comfortable discomfort as we fast for Yom Kippur.

This is a Time for Transformation. If you are ready to add your name to call forth the American conscience that is already reawakening, please click to Sign Up https://www.ykwalkout.net/?page_id=31 

Blessings of Truth and Turning, individual Tshuvah that becomes Tikkun Olam!

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