Day of Atonement
Today is Yom Kippur. Day of Atonement. A time to repent of the sins between man and God. I like the idea of taking a day to right your relationship with God. In our own tradition, the story of Enos has always spoken to me for this reason.
Recently I was listening to a Speaking of Faith podcast with Rabbi Sharon Brous where she spoke about Yom Kippur and her conception of the relationship between God and humankind.
I’m very struck by the idea of a renegotiated marriage, which, I think, I heard for the first time from Rabbi Art Green, just this idea that we get to set the marriage back on course. We’re periodically given this opportunity to realign and to set straight our priorities again, and to redefine what kind of relationship we even want to be in. I believe that…we need to fix ourselves and God needs to fix God’s self also…And this is an opportunity for us to look in a really brutal way at ourselves and say, ‘Where have I not been the human being I need to be in the world? And where have I let myself down and let other people down, and let God down?’ And also to look at God and say, ‘Where are the ways that I feel that I have been let down by God?’ Because what I believe ultimately the brit, the covenant, is about God wanting us to make those demands also. God wanting us to hold God to the fire and say, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t what you promised? [H]ow could you let this person get sick? Or, how could you let this thing happen in the world?’ And that’s OK for us to…offer that kind of expression to God. God actually wants to be in a relationship like that with us.
There is not a lot of room within Mormon theology for this kind of relationship with God. God is perfect, some say unchanging, and it is us who must repent, break our hearts and make contrite our spirits. And yet who among us has not been angry at God? Who among us has not felt that God has treated us poorly?
If Rabbi Brous’ metaphor holds, what kind of marriage is it if one party cannot say to the other, “You have hurt me”? To believe that God can do no wrong, or at least that we cannot question God for the wrong that occurs in the world is to set ourselves up for an unfulfilling and shallow relationship. Why should God not be asked why thousands of children die from hunger each day? Why women and girls are sold into sexual slavery? Why God would require us to hurt our gay brothers and sisters by protecting “traditional” marriage? Why our doctrine and culture causes little girls to ask if God loves boys better?
There is no evidence that questions offend God. In fact, Abraham outright argued with God. And we know from the Book of Abraham that Heavenly Father wept over the sorrow of His children. I believe God wants us to ask, to weep and gnash, even if there is no answer provided. I believe God wants this because it is a way to keep our relationship honest.
So on this day of atonement I will sorrow for the times I have failed as a wife, mother, daughter and sister. I will mourn for the times I have been willfully disobedient, hurtful to those around me and unfair to God. But I will also hear in my own mind the soft recognition of the sorrow I have felt and the sadness that the world that God created for us is not all it should be.