fbpx Yom Kippur at Lincoln Memorial | Reconstructing Judaism

Yom Kippur at Lincoln Memorial


(from God Loves the Stranger)

Today is a day of repentance, renewal, and solidarity.

Repentance in Hebrew is T’shuvah, which means turning and returning—making an about-face.

It is a most treasured human gift.

One who turns around and heads in the right direction Is respected and appreciated.

Indeed, when we say that we are lost, it is often the beginning of the journey home.

The Source of Life, the Divine Beloved, calls us to return, calls us to T’shuvah, again and again.


V’Shavta Ad Adonai Elohecha: “And you shall return to Godliness, to Goodness” it says in the Book of Deuteronomy.


“Return,” the tradition says, “the moment before you die.”

“But when will I die?” we ask.

“No one knows. So return today!”


Return from where?


Return from arrogance, fear and delusion,

Return from a false view that to say we are wrong means we are weak and foolish instead of strong and wise and loving,

From a false hope that our children and their children will not harvest the consequences of our greed.


Turn toward what?


Turn us toward remembering


Turn us toward remembering what we learn in the Book of Leviticus—when God tells us, Ki Lee Haaretz, ki Gerim V’Toshavim Atem Emadi—The land is mine—you are sojourners and resident settlers with me. Our ownership and our residency are conditional and impermanent.

Turn us toward remembering that all beings on this planet, all beings, breathe the same air, are burned by the same sun, eat from the same soil and drink from the same cup.

Turn us toward remembering that all beings on this planet, all beings, are loved by the same endless, everlasting and infinite Love.

Turn us toward remembering that there is only one body to wound, and it is ours.

Hasheveinu Adonai Elecha V’Nashuva

Chadesh Yamaynu Kekedem

Turn us to you, Adonai, and we will return.

Renew every single one of our days.

May the ancient wisdom guide us into a new world of caring and hope.

Rabbi and Author

Related Resources

News and Blogs

A High Holiday Message

The Talmud tells us that God created repentance (teshuvah) before creating the physical world. As Billy Joel once sang, “we’re only human, we’re supposed to make mistakes.” It’s how we respond to mistakes, how we grow, that matters. This video explores the twin themes of teshuvah and gratitude (hakarat hatov.) Our tradition offers us practices that cultivate self-reflection and humility, relationship and repair. We hope these words offer some comfort and guidance as you undergo your own process of teshuvah and, in meaningful relationships with others, make Godliness present in the world.


Addressing Race as a Jewish Community

As a time to take responsibility for communal wrongs, Yom Kippur calls us to learn about and grapple with issues of race in America.


Gates, Locked and Unlocked: A Yom Kippur Text Study

This text study examines the vivid image of gates closing at the end of Yom Kippur.


Can a Reconstructionist Sin?

Since Reconstructionist Judaism affirms a conception of God as a force, power or process — but not as a supernatural Being who can be addressed and can respond — what happens to the notion of sin? Rabbi Richard Hirsh argues that Reconstructionist theology makes it more, not less, important that we take on the responsibility for judgment, atonement, apology and repentance


How to Make Yom Kippur Meaningful for Our Children

Yom Kippur is probably the most challenging holiday to explain meaningfully on a child's level. Rabbi Devorah Bartnoff, z”l, offers goals and techniques for teaching and experiencing Yom Kippur. 


Fall Holiday Glossary

This file contains a helpful glossary of terms for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. It begins with a letter to parents suggesting themes to think about during the holiday season.


High Holiday Liturgy

Rabbi Alan LaPayover (RRC ‘02), recorded the prayers of the Reconstructionist liturgy for the High Holiday services. The sound files are available for listening and download from links on this page.