Yom Kippur and the Jew of Today:
The Time of Renewal
IS OUR prayerbook for the Day of Atonement, the Mahzor of Yom Kippur, a chance compilation of orisons? Or may we trace some intuitive design- however unobtrusive-in the order and structure of this remarkable set of devotional pieces? I wish to limit my own discussion of this question to a brief analysis of the Ashkenazic Mahzor as used, with minor variations, in Europe and America. I thus exclude other, different collections of Yom Kippur prayers, and I do not offer my views as dogmatically binding in any way, but merely as an attempt to discover some possible new meaning for us today in the Yom Kippur service.
Our post-Biblical literature is filled with “non-canonized” interpretations of ancient religious texts. In offering its own interpretation, the Zohar assures us that at least seventy different comments are possible on the Torah-a modest understatement, perhaps, when we consider the thousands of richly variegated commentaries on the Old Testament written by Jews and non-Jews alike. Why should we hesitate, then, to ponder on the meaning that our great religious documents may ‘have for us today? Why should we narrow Jewish studies down to mere historical research, to questions of the origin of our literature? There is no reason why this or any other “scientific” critical approach need be the only legiltimate one.
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