In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games was not merely an athletic competition, but a religious ritual that was supposed to mandate a truce in all armed conflicts so the Hellenic world could gather in peace. In the modern era, wars take precedence over sports, so the Games were cancelled during both world wars. But though the Hellenism of the Olympics was in conflict with Judaism during the period of the classic Games, is it possible for contemporary Jews to revive the spirit of that famous truce during our own annual religious pause from strife?
For some of us the answer is no. As I noted previously, some rabbis have no compunction about giving openly political sermons. Some see it is a moral imperative to mobilize their members to oppose U.S. President Donald Trump, whom many see as immoral. Such rabbis are merely following the leads of their congregants, who want their spiritual leaders to affirm their beliefs and prejudices rather than to challenge their assumptions. For those who see their faith as indistinguishable from their partisan loyalties, it’s easy to blur the distinction between political disagreements and religious obligations.
Leaving aside the question of whether their political judgment is correct, there is a more important issue to deal with when discussing politics in this context. That is whether the crusading spirit that animates so much of our political discussions is compatible with our religious imperative to use this time of year to turn inward.
For Jews, the 10 days that encompass Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a period of intense introspection, in which each of us must conduct a cheshbon hanefesh, an “accounting of our souls.” That means not just deciding whether we’ve lived up to the highest ethical and moral standards, but also whether we’ve done harm to others.
The concept of teshuvah—or repentance—is at the heart of this process. If you’ve wronged someone in your life, then this is the moment to sincerely ask for forgiveness and, in turn, to forgive those who might have wronged you.
While most of us think this solely applies to interpersonal conduct, it has a particular relevance at a time of such intense political polarization.
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Source: Christian Post