At the erev Yom Kippur service at the IJC, I was asked to read a page from the prayer book for the service. I found the passage quite moving and appropriate for the Day of Atonement, and I am sharing it here:
This day demands of us an unsparing effort to face the truth about ourselves, naked and undisguised; to acknowledge the many blemishes which disfigure us: greed and envy, self-pity and self-indulgence, cruelty and callousness, prejudice and arrogance, hatred and destructiveness.
Each of us shares in some measure these and many other failings. Who is so righteous that they can say: I have not sinned?
How we diminish our stature! So many are the opportunities for love and growth -- and instead we heap misery upon our own heads: the misery of time and talent wasted, the agony of inner conflict, the torment of self-accusation, the frustration of being so much less than we might have been.
And how much hurt we inflict on others! Through our failures, families break up and children suffer; poverty and crime degrade our cities; the weak are robbed of their rights; headless of the cost to future generations, nature is greedily exploited; starvation claims its victims; efforts at reform are obstructed; and people fall upon one another in savage wars.
These faults by which we damage ourselves and one another, also estrange us from the Divine, as it has been said: "Your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden God's face from you." Our weaknesses, too lightly condoned; our bad habits, too long indulged; our evil deeds, too often explained away-- these drive God out of our hearts and our lives. The Divine presence recedes; the vision fades; the voice grows silent; the faith falters. In the end we cease to search for God. We are left with a deep unease, but we no longer understand its source.
We wander alone in a meaningless world. and we despair of redemption.
But there is deliverance if we will only grasp it. On this day, may we find our way back from the wilderness of our failings; may we recapture the awareness of blessed moments when the clouds parted and the sunshine broke through to us, if only for an instant, to heal our wounds and fill our souls with hope and joy.