The Common Good

Repent, the End is Near!

Sojomail - October 2, 2008


These hundreds are engaged in conspiratorial actions against Palestinians and the security forces. It's a very grave phenomenon. This is harming our ability to carry out security missions in the territories. We have to divert our efforts to there from other issues. The margins [in the settler community] are expanding, because they are enjoying a tailwind and the backing of part of the leadership, both rabbinical and public, whether in explicit statements or tacitly.

- Major General Gadi Shamni of the Israeli Defense Forces, commenting on violence by Israeli settlers. According to the BBC, he also said that in some cases Israeli soldiers who had intervened to stop settlers from attacking Palestinians had themselves been attacked by settlers, adding, "The majority [of settlers] here act normally. We're talking about a hard core of a few hundred activists." (Source: BBC)

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Repent, the End is Near!

We are all familiar with the crazy-looking street preacher in some public square haranguing every passerby with a message of doom and gloom while holding up a sign that reads, "Repent, the end is near!"

Well, as members of Congress went home to their districts on Tuesday in honor of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, it might have been appropriate for their constituents to have welcomed them home with just such a placard.

You see, this Jewish holiday begins a 10-day period during which Jews spend time in self-reflection and repentance, particularly in seeking to mend relations with those they may have wronged during the year. The 10 days culminate on Yom Kippur, when one repents of sins against God. Judaism believes that while God forgives sins against God, each person must repent and seek forgiveness from other people against whom they have sinned.

And I can’t think of a better thing for members of Congress – Jewish or not – to do than repent, because the end is indeed near. Last week, Cokie Roberts suggested that the financial managers who helped precipitate this economic crisis be paraded down Wall Street in sackcloth and ashes. Now it may be time for their congressional colleagues to join them.

In the midst of a crisis that is both structural and spiritual, it is indeed appropriate for us all to reflect on what repentance means. Biblically, it means a turning around, a change in direction, a reversing of one's course and beginning to walk an entirely new path. After the House of Representatives rejected the most current "rescue plan" for the economy, the stock market immediately lost $1.2 trillion in value, including in people’s retirement funds and college savings accounts. Some repentance does seem to be in order – both because this was such a flawed bill, and because Washington and Wall Street allowed the financial situation to so deteriorate that a flawed bill, such as the one now approved by the Senate, was painfully necessary. [... more]

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