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Joshua Cypess
+ Your AuthorsArchive @JoshuaCypess He/his. PhD social scientist & Orthodox Rabbi. We're all in this together. #BlackLivesMatter #Steelers #Mets #Resist Sep. 17, 2021 3 min read

1/ Since the beginning of the #TrumpCrisis, I've had ever increasingly difficult #YomKippur davening because of the burden I feel to act as a 'sanegor' (defender) for my community and for the Jewish world at large.

(This is in addition to the vast ways I need to improve myself)

2/ I'm not a gadol, a posek, or anything close to a tzadik. But after seeing so many rebbeim & gedolim openly support Trump (ym'sh), erase women from Jewish life, and encourage anti-vax shtuyot, I considered the tenuous possibility that I would need to act as a communal sanegor.

3/ With the established leadership descending into avoda-zara (DJT), shefichat-damim (COVID denial) & arayot (dehumanizing women), I needed to step up - out of safek-nefashot - and use all of my halakhic, rhetorical & philosophical ability to devise kappara for the Am Kadosh.

4/ Yes, it's a gross chutzpah for me to think I actually have the stature as national sanegor, an ironic arrogance that could jeopardize my own kappara.

But there's no joy in this. It has been a terrible emotional burden and the difficulty of finding excuses is excruciating.

5/ I'm not a gadol hador by any decent, rational measure. But sometimes Yiftach is all we have left (in USA terms, in a weird scenario the Sec. of Transportation could become POTUS). Whatever arrogance I displayed is offset by the compassion I need to dredge up to save others.

6/ On Yom Kippur there can be a howling solitude & despair, and I made it worse by trying to excuse people I normally find inexcusable.

For me, though, it was the best antidote to arrogance and my general desire to exact justice on people I think are bad.

7/ #Yonah is an important model for me & my task. Yonah is "Ben Amitai" which means "son of Truth." Yet he's commanded to deliver a message of mercy to a city of pagans that are destined to cause great evil against the Jewish people. It offends Jonah's "truth" identity. He flees.

8/ Hijinks ensue, there's a storm, a whale of a fish, and when Yonah relents and accepts his mission, it is ridiculously effective. The lessons are broad, extreme and (as I said below) comic. But satire is a great teacher.

9/ After Jonah saves Nineveh, the "son of Truth" complains that God is too compassionate by conspicuously removing "Truth" from the "13 Middot" - the canonical description of God. 

10/ At the end, God shows that Jonah's devotion to Truth is small-minded, vengeful, and selfish. Jonah cares more about a pumpkin tree that God's compassion created for his comfort than he does for a whole city. Satire, but deeply true about truth-lovers like me.

11/ When I wavered in my pleading for mercy and felt kappara was undeserved - and there were conspicuous, ridiculous incidents that I davka interpreted as hashgacha-pratit because it made my task even harder - I remembered Yonah, angry about gourds & not real human pain & lives.

12/ The gift of #YomKippur is that of total mercy & grace that we need to balance a life of injustice & cruelty. Truly, I can't know what people are personally struggling with that makes them act abominably. And YK is not the time to demand strict lines of punishment.

13/ My desire that people be punished for obviously terrible things is Yonah's desire for his leafy gourds. If I'm a servant of God's truth then I must know my ignorance is almost total.

We say this in Ne'ila: plea for repentance not death.
Ezek. 33:11 

14/ At a later time I will try to detail the arguments I used to find excuses. The liturgy is incredible in helping with this, both in the poetry and Tanakh citations. See Ezek. 33:11 above & 18:23, 32 (p.724 in Artscroll) 

15/ And, if possible, either here or in an essay, I will try to recreate the philosophical labyrinths I wound myself through in order to devise a way to save my people. The portents are not good. Very "second Temple" decadence. See BT Yoma 23a. 

16/ All for now. Please God next year we can look back at this time of crisis - where we sit in masks with armed guards outside to protect from visible & invisible marauders - and feel closer to the Shabbat of Shabbat Shabbaton. #ReshetKeshet

17/ #ReshetKeshet #YomKippur #Jonah #Yonah #Forgiveness #Torah


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