Sundown tonight marks the start of the Jewish New Year that begins with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. The ten days from the start of that holiday until the end of Yom Kippur next week are known as the Days of Awe in Judaism. During this period, Jews reflect on their deeds in the past year and seek to account for them to their Creator as well as their fellow human beings. This period of introspection should cause all of us to think about what we have done in the past 12 months and work to improve ourselves.
It would also be good advice for many world leaders as we observe the circus at the United Nations where nations line up to cheer dictators and to single out Israel for discriminatory treatment. As Jews around the globe take note of their shortcomings, perhaps those who have done so much to encourage hatred of the Jewish state and the Jewish people should take a few moments and own up to their policies that have done so much harm and which have made peace even more unlikely.
Though we refer to Jewish tradition, the notion of accountability is something that speaks directly to the problems of any democracy which is based on the concept that elected leaders are judged by the voters. For those in both parties who have sought to demonize their political opponents, the dawn of the New Year represents an opportunity to step back and realize that attempts to brand leaders, parties and movements as being beyond the pale or even questioning the wisdom of democracy itself — that is to say, questioning the right of the voters to override the dictates of the politicians and the intellectuals — has done much to undermine any hope for a resolution of our national problems.
The passage of the calendar also reminds us at COMMENTARY of the urgency of our four-fold task to speak up in defense of Zionism and Israel; to bear witness against the scourge of anti-Semitism; to support the United States as well as the best of Western civilization. Our work is, as our editor John Podhoretz wrote back in February 2009, an act of faith in the power of ideas as well as in our own nation and as we take inventory of our personal lives we also seek to rededicate ourselves to the causes to which our magazine is devoted.
Jewish liturgy tells us that the fate of all human beings is decided during these Days of Awe but it also says that teshuva (repentance), tefilla (prayer) and tzedaka (acts of justice and charity) may avert the severe decree. In that spirit of reflection and dedication to carrying on our task of informing and educating our readers in the coming year, we at COMMENTARY wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.