More people attend synagogue on Yom Kipper, the Day of Atonement, than on any other Jewish holiday. Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins has written widely for the Jewish and general press and is the author of 35 books for Jewish group leaders. He is rabbi emeritus of the Jewish Center of Princeton. After years of gathering resources, he has put together this invaluable collection of readings to deepen and enrich the experience of Yom Kippur. They come from a dazzling array of sources ancient, medieval, modern, Jewish, and non-Jewish with sermons, meditations, poems, prayers, stories, and colorful anecdotes.
Rabbi Elkins has always been a meaning maker and here this gift is revealed on page after page of material that covers such important subjects as sin, forgiveness, God, love and learning, repentance, prayer and acts of righteousness, faith and belief, Yom Kippur customs, Jonah and human responsibility, martyrology, and next year in Jerusalem. This anthology is designed to inspire, inform, and nourish contemplation. And that it does with selections by Martin Buber, Dr. Avram Davis, Debbie Friedman, Erich Fromm, Rabbi Arthur Green, Rabbi Irving Greenberg, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dr. Barry W. Holtz, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner . . . well, we could go on, but you get the picture: the teachers here are the best and the brightest in Judaism. To give you one example, here is a story on kindness by Rabbi Howard Weiss:
"It was outside Schwartz's bakery on Fairfax Ave. that I first saw him do it while I waited in my car for my wife to finish Shabbos shopping. As I watched the erev Shabbat [Sabbath evening] crowd go by, my attention was drawn to a poorly dressed young woman pushing an old market wagon, filled with bundles of rags, paper bags, and whatever else goes into living hand to mouth.
"A small child sat cushioned in the wagon, and another kid walked beside her. Passengers in poverty.
"Coming from the opposite direction was this man whom I recognized. As he passed her, he turned around suddenly and called out something to get her attention. I didn't hear what. When she turned, he pretended to be picking up some money. Green it was, how much wasn't meant for me to know.
"He motioned that she had dropped it, and quickly put it in the child's lap and was gone.
"It was less than a month later, while I waited at the checkout counter at Ralph's market, that I saw the man again. He was standing behind an alte bubbie [old grandmother] who was counting out her pennies to pay for her milk and bread.
"He didn't see me, but I saw him as he bent down and came up holding a twenty in his hand, all the while saying that the bubbie had dropped it. She said 'no.' it wasn't hers. Everybody in the line urged her to take it, and she did.
"Now when anyone is lucky enough to see an act of kindness, it makes for good feelings. Trouble was that I never liked this man until now.
"God gave two eyes to see. The right one to see the good in others, and the left to see the fault in ourselves.
"I see better now."