While my mind was wandering a little bit during services on the second day of Rosh Hashana, I started thinking forward to Yom Kippur. As many of you know, when we ask for forgiveness for our sins on Yom Kippur, we do so in the plural as we strike our chests. Some of the lines in the Al Cheyt prayer are:
For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.
For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.
And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.
For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality.
The forgiveness we request is not for us as individuals, but for us as a community. It is perhaps one of the clearest examples of how Jews focus is all about the collective.
Our Jewish collective accomplishes things that no individual can do on their own. From the Aliyah of Ethiopians that I wrote about last week to the building of the only Jewish state in the world, working together we accomplish what may seem impossible. When we come together whether to coordinate our Pittsburgh Jewish community security tied in with a single BluePoint system or to purchase health care for 600 employees and their families jointly across multiple Jewish agencies and synagogues or to invest community assets together in our Jewish Community Foundation, we do so more effectively and efficiently. There is power in numbers: when we work together, we are able to advocate at the state level for nonprofit security grants for the entire community, we travel to Israel with 240 Pittsburghers, and we can have our agencies work together to create and sustain collaboratives like AgeWell Pittsburgh, a nationally recognized collaborative model for caring for seniors.
While the Yom Kippur liturgy has us asking for forgiveness for all of us, we must recognize that being part of the community requires responsibility for so much more than just forgiveness and reparation. Judaism recognizes the power and necessity of the collective. To that end, let’s make sure we focus the other 364 days of the year on working together to build a strong Jewish community in Pittsburgh and around the world.
Wishing you an easy but extremely meaningful fast. Shabbat Shalom.