We’re approaching Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. The day is traditionally observed with fasting and prayer, and abstaining from any activity. There was an excellent Radio 4 Thought for the Day this morning on the subject by the Chief Rabbi. This is a solemn feast, unlike the other festivals in Judaism, which he described as ‘They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.’
The main theme of his talk was the need for forgiveness in today’s world and, therefore, the relevance of Yom Kippur. So I was struck by this article in Slate, which looks at the conflict between the day of abstinence and the modern technological and business needs. ‘Perhaps the guiltiest confession of all is that the Day of Atonement may become a postindustrial curio in another 60 years of Jewish statehood.’ it concludes.
It struck me that, what the writer says may happen to Yom Kippur, is exactly what has happened to the Sabbath here. It’s not true to say that a UK Sunday is a day like any other; what it is, is a day like Saturday, when everyone is free to shop, to spend, to pursue entertainment. I’m not sure I would want to go back to the days when everything closed and when the afternoons were interminable. Nor am I suggesting that our beliefs be imposed on other people.But I do think that maybe the time is ripe for Christians to re-examine our attitude and use of the Sabbath. For many of us, the specialness of the day has shrunk to the morning. After church, we head off to the garden centre with the rest of them. (Actually, I went to a car boot sale last week.)
Hmmm. It’s a potent metaphor: a world so addicted to media, to electricity, to the car, that it cannot switch off for one day; a world so busy making money or twittering to friends that it cannot put aside one day to ask for forgiveness.
‘I can’t say sorry, now. I’m watching the adverts. I will think about God today, I promise. Right after I’ve updated my facebook page.’
The Day of Atonement: Lev. 23:27-32