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Yom Kippur Message from Ivan Ciment 25 September 2001

There is a Talmudic legend that says that once upon a time the rabbis were arguing over a point of law. One rabbi said he was so sure that he was right that the heavens and angels would rumble and assent in agreement – and they did. But he was overruled anyway – the edict of the leading rabbi was that matters of heaven were left to heaven but matters of earth should be left to earthlings to decide.

We have come full circle over the past 1,500 or so years since the legend was created. We have reached a cataclysmic stage of human history where we are faced with an existential problem and threat that we admit we can’t solve. We are sure that God is on our side, but the heavens are not rumbling in agreement. Throwing the conventional solvents such as bombs and armies at this replicating and stubborn pest will not make it go away and might well make it even angrier. Sorta like a bad roach that doesn’t react to RAID Insect Killer. 

So what to do? We can try and solve this problem but we’re going to need some outside help with this one. We’re going to need more than just guidance and wisdom; we’re going to need some luck and a hand that is watching over us. I’m talking major rain out of nowhere when that bomb blows fallout in the middle of Times Square. 

I’m a religious person who hopes that God doesn’t want the bin Ladens of this world to drive us nuts.  Normally, when someone tells me that the world’s problems are to be solved by prayer, I think he is nuts. I have always felt that it is OK to pray for help and guidance but that people have to work to make things happen. In this case, I know that our work alone will not make things happen.

Jewish liturgy teaches that God first judges Jews on Yom Kippur. He also judges Israel and the rest of the world. But it first starts with us, says our religion. We have what to pray for this Yom Kippur. I have always included the rest of the world in my prayers; I suppose many others will, for the first time, do as well. Those of you who aren’t Jewish, please pray for us too. We’re all in this together.

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