Shana Tova!

Thank you for joining me for this past year. Here's to many more!

Asking people to let you spam their email on a regular basis is a tall order. I guard my own inbox jealously, and have been amazed and gratified at how many of you were willing to volunteer and allow me into yours. You trusted me to explain many difficult issues, and to deconstruct complex ideas without condescension, and I hope I’ve lived up to my end of the bargain—and made you laugh a little along the way.

It’s been a tough year to cover many of the subjects I tackle, from Israel to America to anti-Semitism. Having dedicated readers like you who read my work, share it online, and add your own thoughts, reminds me why I do this even when the outlook seems bleak. It’s made me a better thinker and writer, taught me many things I didn’t know, and reaffirmed my faith that more people than we realize want more than sloganeering and demagoguery about the hard issues of the day.

I’ve got some very exciting things planned for 5780, and you folks will be the first to hear about them. But until then, I just wanted to say thank you.

I leave you with a beautiful modern rendition of one of the most elevated but also abstruse portions of the Yom Kippur liturgy: the reenactment of the High Priest’s service in the Temple.

According to tradition, the High Priest (“Kohen Gadol”) would only enter the Temple’s Holy of Holies once a year, on Yom Kippur, to ask for forgiveness for the entire nation. Afterwards, he would exit the sanctuary and the people would celebrate with him. Today, the traditional liturgy has an entire section where the prayer leader takes on this role of the Kohen Gadol and reenacts the ritual for the congregation. It’s hard for most of us to relate to this performance, however, having never seen or experienced the real thing, and many would admit that this portion of the service is the least engaging.

This year, Israeli singer Yishai Ribo set out to change that with a heartfelt modern interpretation of the ancient recital:

Here’s a rough partial translation of my own, to give you a sense:

He came from the place that he came
And he went to the place that he went
Took off his daily clothes
Put on white ones

And here is what he said:
Please God, forgive all the sins and transgressions
That I and my household have sinned before you

And if a person was able to recall
All the failings and shortcomings
All the sins and the misdeeds…
He would give up right away

Because he wouldn't be able to bear
The bitterness, the sin
The shame, the missed opportunity
The loss…

He came out of the place from where he’d come
And trembled on the place he had stood
Stripped off golden garments
Put on his own clothes

And all the people and the priests
Would accompany him to his house
And to a day of celebration for his loved ones
For the entire congregation of Israel had been forgiven

לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם לאלתר לחיים טובים ולשלום!
Shana tova,