A Balancing Act

These days, some people who for years have chanted “my body, my choice,” are insisting that the government should mandate what you put into your body. Others, who argued against the exclusive rights we each have to our bodies, are crossing now to the other camp. Whether you are on one side or the other or whether you make a consistent case or think there is no parallel whatsoever among different issues, drawing the line between “my” choices and the good of the community is an age old question.

Ancient Jewish wisdom offers an annual antidote to this common human conundrum.

Many Jews will crowd into synagogues this Wednesday night and Thursday for Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement brings more Jews to worship services than any other occasion. Even Jews who reveal themselves in public opinion surveys to be among the least religious of all Americans sometimes show up at synagogue on Yom Kippur.

There are some Jews for whom this day has become a ceremony marking the passage of time; a sort of Jewish Labor Day announcing the end of summer.

For others, Yom Kippur is the social event of the year at which they get to see old acquaintances.

Other Jews attend high holyday services propelled by guilt and as a last lingering contact with a Judaism that sentimentally links them to their parents and grandparents.

However, there is greater significance to Yom Kippur than these secular, social and sentimental motivations.

This special day celebrates one of God’s greatest gifts without which no society could long survive. This is the schematic of order and structure. Without it our love of personal liberty would tip us toward civil chaos.

Our society flourishes in its diversity. Some of us specialize in providing food; others offer medical care. Someone drives the bus or plane you ride, while other individuals build companies. We can vote, dress and live in totally different ways than our peers. Within the magical environment we call a society each of us can flourish in whatever areas we choose.

But with all this personal liberty some basic common framework must exist. Without a shared vision for how society ought to look, one person’s liberty to do whatever he chooses soon begins to impinge on another’s ability to live his chosen life.

Perhaps someone’s choice is not to work at all or to turn to drugs or alcohol. Well, that choice impacts most other citizens as they are forced to hand over money they would rather spend on their own family, to the tax collector instead in order for the government to fund drug or rehab programs. That same personal choice to surrender a life to drugs or alcohol forces other citizens to have to step over an intoxicated form on the sidewalk and diminishes the value of businesses in that neighborhood. It is almost impossible to make choices that do not impact other people. We are all interconnected.

This produces a tension between personal liberty which we embrace and the need for us all to choose to curtail some of our liberties. One of today’s significant social stresses is deciding where the line should be drawn.

A great secret for both family and business success is learning to balance what we want to do with what we should do. The Jewish High Holydays, comprising Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, impart the theme of that great balancing act and link it to the astrological sign of this period; Libra, the balancing scales. The challenge not only for individuals but for society as a whole is to master this balancing act. When better to attempt it than during the Month of the Scales?

Perhaps one spiritual reason that Jews flock to services during these days of awe is to acknowledge that living successfully means accepting restraints. For a society to survive every right has a matching responsibility; every freedom entails an obligation. We all need to do what we have to do, when we have to do it.

We need help in setting the right balance in our lives because if enough people make bad choices, it ruins society for everyone. A connection with God helps us balance our desire to do that which we please with our ability to resist that desire in favor of what is right. And that can be a powerful magnet for gathering people together once a year.


48 Hour Sale – Day for Atonement

Audio CD & Instant Download – only $7.00

On sale until Wednesday 9/15 at sunset when we close for Yom Kippur

Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s audio teaching discusses how before moving forward, we must acknowledge and accept the past. You will see how to quick start the atonement process by weighing the balance we keep in three specific areas of our lives: coping with the gulf between our ideals and the reality of being imperfect human beings; managing personal versus communal needs; and evaluating the needs of our bodies versus the needs of our souls. Through this program, you will be led to the joy of an upbeat future freed from the guilt and baggage of the past.


Month of Festivals Sale

Save $30 on all of our already low-priced Library Packs

If this isn’t your first rodeo with us, you know that there is a month of Jewish holy days in the fall. This year, they fall out in September. As always, our office and stores will be closed on those special days in accordance with Leviticus 23. We save our best sales for this time of year when we open/shut – open/shut. Choose from one of our Library Packs. Through September, you can save big on our already low-priced Library Packs.

6 thoughts on “A Balancing Act”

  1. “However, there is greater significance to Yom Kippur than these secular, social and sentimental motivations.”
    “This special day celebrates one of God’s greatest gifts without which no society could long survive. This is the schematic of order and structure. Without it our love of personal liberty would tip us toward civil chaos.”
    You didn’t say what this “significance” is nor define this great “gift!” Say what it means, in clear unabashed terms- it’s so important, and this article doesn’t mention it! What is this great gift that God gives us on this day?

  2. “A connection with God helps us balance our desire to do that which we please with our ability to resist that desire in favor of what is right.”
    This is so true. Without a connection with God, the Ten Commandments have become debatable in society. Even murder and stealing!

  3. Doing what we must do rather than what our heart’s desires are or in other words deferring gratification is a hallmark of Western civilization and Happy Warriors!
    I for one see no contradiction between those who say “my body my choice” if they are the same ones who demand we take vaccinations. For one thing, aborted babies are used in developing some vaccines. Also like in vaccine mandate these people are forcing their will on another, in the case of abortion they are forcing the choice of death onto another human being. It comes as no surprise to me, if you would do evil to the most vulnerable of us, then you would eventually do evil to everyone. They must be opposed!

  4. Thanx Rabbi. I love how this boils down to such simplicity, if we will just embrace and act on it. I realise it’s easier said than done, but I commit to improvement in order to bring glory to Whom it’s due and to bless His other children.

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