We stand tonight, apart in person, but close in spirit.
We stand in reflection and prayer, with wounds from loss, scars of illness, and anguish about the future.
We stand before the God of atonement, healing and forgiveness.
But healing begins with truth. Therefore, accountability is at the heart of Yom Kippur.
In a post-fact world, when lies are promulgated from high places, and the loudest shouting on social media often wins, when a spreading culture of shamelessness has as its motto ‘If you can get away with it it’s OK,’ Yom Kippur summons us before the God of truth.
Eyn nistar minegged einecha – Nothing is hidden from Your eyes
I don’t believe in an x-ray God who keeps a record of our every sin. I do believe that, somehow, I am known by the God of life, whose presence is in all living being. I am answerable to life.
Accountability begins at home. In my heart of hearts I want to be known. In the editing room of memory, when I hear myself say ‘It wasn’t me. So-and-So made me do it. I was only…’ a deeper voice calls, ‘And the truth?’ Honesty and remorse sting, but I must welcome them, so that my past can help me grow.
We are accountable not just in private, but to society. Seeing others go to foodbanks, make masks, bake for hospitals, hearing Marcus Rashford use his iconic status for so much good, puts the question: ‘And you? What are you contributing?’ The God of justice cries out.
We are accountable before nature. One sacred spirit flows through all living being. The plundered forests and poisoned earth accuse us. Mary Colwell wrote in Curlew Moon that sometimes it was only when she pointed it out that people realised they hadn’t heard the haunting cries of these birds for decades. They hadn’t noticed the silence, so were silent. If we too are mute, inactive bystanders before its devastation, we share the guilt for the ruination of our planet.
Above all, we are accountable to our children. We were born into a complex but wonderful world, leant us by the future. Isn’t it our duty to keep it safe for our children’s children?
We are answerable for failing to protest wrong. As we mourn Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we recognise that we must fight for integrity and accountability not just in our conscience but in the public square.
Otherwise Lady Macbeth’s repost that no one will dare call her murderer because ‘none can call our power to account,’ the by-word of tyranny through the ages will, become the strapline of our time. The world can’t afford this.
Accountability, in contrast, is the foundation of integrity. Integrity is the basis of responsibility. Responsibility is the grounds of healing and hope.
The challenges ahead are many.
Therefore may our Torah of justice, compassion and dignity bring us strength.
May the dedication of our ancestors and teachers strengthen us, who strove to be faithful to these principles, and stand with us now in worlds beyond time.
May the beauty of our prayers fill our hearts with strength.
May we find strength in each other, and solidarity in our neighbourhoods and communities.
May we take strength from our very responsibilities which give us purpose and dignity.
May our children, our commitment for the future strengthen our resolve.
So may this be a year of healing;
a year of integrity and truth in our conscience, communities and public squares;
a year of lovingkindness and care, awareness and social justice;
a year of moral and spiritual imagination;
a year for reshaping our societies, rewilding our lands and restoring the earth for all life.
May God’s inspiration and guidance help us turn the spirit of humanity from anguish and fear into determination and hope.
Leshanah Tovah and Gmar Chatimah Tovah.