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Farewell, 5783

The following is a transcript of Episode 81 of the For Heaven’s Sake Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors.

Donniel: Hi, my name is Daniel Hartman and I’m the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, and this is For Heaven’s Sake, a podcast on the Hartman Institute’s iEngage project. Major support for For Heaven’s Sake comes from the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation. Our theme for today is the year that was, the year we hope can be. 

In each edition of For Heaven’s Sake, Yossi Klein Halevi, senior research fellow at the Institute here in Jerusalem, Elana Stein Hain, head of the Beit Midrash of Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and senior fellow, and myself, discuss a current issue central to Israel and the Jewish world, and then Elana explores how classical Jewish sources can enrich our understanding of the issue. 

Unfortunately, due to a loss in her extended family, Elana won’t be joining us today. And I will be adding the classic Jewish source section. Elana, our thoughts are with you. And much love. Let’s begin. 

With this Rosh Hashana, we bid farewell to the Hebrew year 5783, one of the most traumatic years in the history of the State of Israel. And that itself is a heavy statement because we’ve had many difficult years. But I think all of us here feel that it really was one of the most traumatic years. Beyond the arguments over this or that aspect of the government’s judicial policy, beyond questions such as the quality of this government and the Prime Minister, what was this past year really about? What are the core issues that Israelis are now debating and that we have to take from this last year? What did this past year reveal to us about ourselves that we may not have understood until now? 

Rosh Hashana is not only a time of summing up our successes and failures, both individually and as a people, it is also, primarily, a time of anticipation, of resolving to do things differently in the coming year. How then can the coming year be different from what we just experienced? I don’t mean an exercise in wishful thinking. This is not a time for utopian dreams. But what are some of the realistic possibilities for change? What do we need to learn from this last year to help 5,784? become a turning point in restoring some minimal sense of cohesiveness and shared purpose to Israeli society. 

Yossi, it’s great to be with you. 

Yossi: Great to be with you, Donniel.

Donniel: I know you’re in Vancouver, actually from Vancouver it’s interesting. I found this also over the summer that actually from far away, you’re able to reflect. And maybe it’s good for you to do Rosh Hashana in Vancouver, or maybe it’ll be good for our audience. From Vancouver, an ability to detox a little bit, because it really is intense here. Let’s try to concentrate on one or two. Like here, this was a year, Yossi. I know it was exhausting, it was exhilarating, it was troubling, it was everything. And it was a year of unbelievable activity on your part. A lot of very courageous, sometimes controversial moves that you made. You were really out there, Yossi, like in a way that was, for the Jewish world, very, very powerful. 

It really was. You were like, you were out there. You know, we again, we’re not at our, we’re not talking agreeing. Like, you were there. You were one of the major voices in the Jewish world thinking and helping to navigate this. So you look back now. Now you’re resting. You’re in Vancouver. I’m sure the view is beautiful. It’s like it’s calming. I hope the

Yossi: One of the most beautiful views in the world. 

Donniel: It’s just, just be careful from the bears. Do me a favor, I just, that would be just, I can’t handle that. But leaving the bears aside, what, like from far away, as you look, what are your two major takeaways from this last year? Or one or two? 

Yossi: Donniel, first of all, thank you. One of the sources of spiritual nourishment that I’ve received over this year is really our conversations. And I’m just grateful to you for pushing me and for letting me push you and for the dynamic that we’ve created here, because its something that unfirtunately has become so precious and rare in Israeli and Jewish discourse generally. The ability of two people week after week, to sit down and confornt the most painful and divisive issues. So, what has changed for me, I’d say over the past year, is the realization that the time of our illusions is over. And this has been a year, and the reaosn its been so traumatic is because we’re being forced to face very deep, strucutal problems within Israeli society. Whether the state within a state that the ultra Orthodox have created, or settler violence that is no longer a fringe phenomenon, as I mistakenly said over the years.

Or more deeply, whether its facing the consequences of two thousand years of Jewish exile on the Jewish psyche, on the Jewish soul. We’re looking at unresolved layers of rage within parts of the Jewish poeple, which is expressed in all kinds of pathological ways in Israeli society today, and something that we deal with at the Hartman Institue, which is the theological conseuqences of exile, which are unresolved. And how this compensatory theology of Jewish triumphalism, an exaggerated sense of Jewish chosenness, which sustained us in exile, through centuries of humiliation, that was the compensation of the Jewish people. But today, under conditions of power, is becoming lethal, most of all to Judaism itself.

And so if I had to sum up, in one word, this is the year when we began to copnfront the pathologies, the unresolved pathologies both within Israeli society and within Judaism itself. How about for you, Donniel?

Donniel: Let’s, before, I want to talk to you a little bit about yours a little bit more. And I appreciate it. And just as a listener, it’s hard. It’s hard. And I appreciate the pain that that requires, you know, it’s, we spoke about this, I think, the last time, you know, the need for myths. But for you, all the stories about ourselves, of our hopes of, like this was the year of the pathologies of Israel. 

Now, as an educator, that’s a critical step, because if you don’t see them, you can’t change them. And very often, we don’t like people to point out our pathologies. It’s a tough place to be in, because you’re not, you’re not congratulating us. Like so much of Zionism is a congratulation. And it’s very worth it, worthwhile. Like we earned it. And this was a year in which the congratulatory part really was not front and center in your soul. You couldn’t see, it was the other side. 

Yossi: And you know, Donniel, all these years, it has been front and center, and not only that, but I always pushed back on the attempt to demythologize, because I saw that as a thinly veiled assault on the legtimacy of Israel and Zionism. And my whole being, all these years, was to protect what we’ve created here. And this was the first time for me, ever, in my life, to take that role, of,

Donniel: But that’s a protect, it’s interesting, you know, it’s like, as we’re talking, you know, we know each other so well, but like every time we talk, you understand someone a little better. This was you continuing to protect, Yossi. 

Yossi: Absolutely. 

Donniel: This is what it was. This was your protecting. Since the pathology became so central, your way of protecting was not as an act of distancing. But it was like when this pathology is like, I got to fight. So the same modality of protection just shifted its focus. But it was still a year of protection for you. But it was, 

Yossi: Oh, that’s beautifully put. It’s beautifully put, Donniel. And you know, for me, looking at Smotrich and Ben Gvir and the Israeli far-rgiht, and the sense of, how dare you make Israel more vulnerable to those who want to turn us into a criminal state? And so there was, the shift, it’s exactly what you say, it’s just it’s another way of trying to defend Israel from threat. 

Donniel: You know, and also it helps me, helps me understand you and a difference, some of the differences that we’ve had in our conversations over the last number of months. Now I understand you even more because over the last year, I felt like you’ve been too hard. It’s like you’re always focusing, like I overthink, it’s too hard. There’s these mantras that you’re saying about the government and it’s delegitimate and you’re like saying, Yossi, could we like stop for a second? 

Because I still, and you’ll see in a moment, I still have some of my myths. So even though the year is challenging and you’ll see, like the myth, the mythologies of, the cup still had a lot of stuff in it, that I know you know is there, but it was like psychologically it was still very deep in my experience. And now I understand why you were doing what you were doing. It’s just wasn’t there. This was the year, that’s what you, it’s not that you’re in theory saying Israel is not good or, no, you were seeing it, and to defend Israel, you had to focus on the, but I have to tell you, sometimes, for me, it was too much, Yossi. 

Yossi: I know, I know.

Donniel: I was telling, I was trying to tell you, Yossi, could you just like stop it like a little bit, like a little bit, Yossi, it was tough. It hasn’t, it hasn’t, you haven’t been, you know, my love for you is unconditional, but you tested it. 

Yossi: But you know, Donniel, where I think I made a mistake is not in repeatedly emphasizing that I’m not questioning the basic mythos of Zionism, of the state. That for me is unconditional and what I’m trying to do now, as you put it, is protect the essential mythos from those who woould destroy it from within. 

Donniel: Because now that’s the danger. It’s like for you, if I would, again, if we’re putting Yossi on the couch, and I love doing that, because it, number one, you’re a special person and you have a huge influence in the Jewish world, you do, and you have a huge audience. You did the same thing with Iran. 

Yossi: And you felt I overdid it there.

Donniel: And I felt you over did it too. Exactly. But you did it too there. Like, hello, like here, you’re not with me on Iran. You’re betraying the Jewish people, like all this stuff. And, but it was, it’s the same Yossi. You’re defending the Jewish people. You’re defending our homeland, our country and Zionism and doing it the way you can. And for you, this threat, maybe the challenge psychologically is how do you leave both spaces? But it’s clear, this just dominated. There was nothing else. Now, there was nothing else. 

Yossi: Look, it’s true. And as you’re speaking, I see a kind of thread, not the most comfortable thread, that connects my teenage years with Meir Kahane, the participation in the violent wing of the Soviet Jewry movement, to now. Because it’s the Jewish mother in me that comes out when I feel that Israel and the Jewish people are under threat. 

Donniel: And then everything else disappears. That’s the fanatic, there’s a fanatic set because everything else disappeared. 

Yossi: It’s so much easier, yes, everything disappears. Yes, yes, yes. And when that threat is coming from without, and my whole life I’m dealing with external threats, that’s easy. This year has been so wrenching for me because the threat has come from within. 

Donniel: So maybe before I, it’s good you’re in Vancouver a little bit so that you could relax. Like when I wish you a Shana Tova, like you need some space, you need a little breathing a little bit. I know you’re only there for a couple of weeks, but it’s like to give yourself a break. 

Yossi: You know, Sarah says, I step off the plane and I’m a different person. 

Donniel: You know, it’s like, it’s what happened to me. It happened to me in 1984. After the war in Lebanon, as much of our audience knows, I had a hard war. It’s a very hard war. And I survived it because in Israel at the time, as I said at the time, boys didn’t have feelings. So like I didn’t have feelings. So how are you, Donniel? I’m fine, but I really wasn’t fine. And I really wasn’t. And listen, you don’t almost die and you don’t lose a family member and you’re fine. It’s just not, you know. 

Yossi: And going through all of that and realizing you can’t trust your government. 

Donniel: Forget even that, that’s you adding. I’m talking just on a personal psychological level. 

Yossi: But I think that was part of the trauma. 

Donniel: Maybe, it was, but that maybe, yes it was, that was part of the break. And I remember when I decided to go to the, I needed to get out of Israel. And I went, I finished my BA, finished studies at the Hartman Institute, finished my Smicha. I moved to New Jersey to be a rabbi of a Jewish community center and to pursue graduate work at NYU. And I remember physically, as you were talking, like when you just said it, I literally physically remember how my body felt when I got off the plane. 

I was, at the time, you only go to America, you could only leave Israel for two years, at the time. That was what your declaration was. I stayed 11. But I remember physically, like, I felt like I could breathe. So it’s like, I stayed 11 years, so, and we stayed a little longer so that Adina could finish some of her graduate studies. It took me about six, seven years, and then I was able to. 

But it’s true. If you’re experiencing this profound pathology, the trauma that you’re undergoing on an ongoing basis without places to heal yourself.

So Yossi, I worry about you but hold in hold on.

Yossi: All I have to do is stay in Vancouver for 11 years and then I’ll be fine. 

Donniel: No, Yossi, just, in any event, there’ll be no Israel, but okay, you’ll be fine. The two, when I look back at this year and I look back at what I’ve learned and what has been profoundly meaningful to me are two things. And they also reflect the balance or the difference a little bit between you and myself. For me, the most significant element of this year was the reemergence and the empowering of the Israeli people. I’m exhilarated. 

You know, in political philosophy, we learn of the three branches of government, the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. And in theory, in democracy, the people are the legislator. They’re the ones who are voted in the most significantly. The executive, you know, is voted by the people. But to a different degree, it’s like the voice of the people is the legislator. It’s not always the case. Sometimes there are coalition agreements. And even though Israel has a very powerful electoral process and people’s voices are very represented, there was a civic passivity in Israel. 

Maybe Israelis exhausted their civic consciousness through their military service. And military service, by the way, is not just your own service, it’s also the giving of the service of your kids. Yossi: Especially. 

Donniel: Especially. And you’re, I’m giving, and I vote. So here it is. I serve, and I vote. But once I vote, there was silence. Till the next election next year, or the next year. Or two. Or two years, but there, maybe, actually, because the elections were so often, you didn’t have to demonstrate, you just voted the next month, but, in the next month’s election. 

But there was a very interesting social passivity in Israeli society, civic passivity. And what we discovered is there really are four branches of government, and that’s the people and the voice of the people. And the voice of a people, even if you’re a minority, by the way, in a democracy, the act of a minority’s voice obligates the majority. It’s not four years, I ignore you. 

And the emergence of that voice, which then ultimately created a new majority, which is different than the majority in the legislature, was for me, it was the most exhilarating, one of my most exhilarating Zionist experiences. It’s like Israel, this last year is a country I wanted to live in. I wanted to be here. I was so proud, demonstrating, being there, but it’s not just, I was never more proud to be an Israeli than this last year. To be an Israeli meant not my government, not my history. It was my present and it’s my people. And in the midst of my people I live. For me, that was my major takeaway. 

And how much it has enriched, empowered, and excited my Zionism and my commitment to Israel. The Israel that I wanna fight for, my energy to fight, my excitement to fight, my optimism to fight. This year has been completely transformed, but at the same time, my second takeaway, closer to yours, I use different language, is we could lose it. 

You know, I’ve said many times, I don’t do pessimism. And that’s a decision. I just don’t do pessimism. It has no value. I can’t see any redeeming quality to pessimism. You just have to get to work. So life, you know, throughout history, the Garden of Eden was a myth and we just don’t live in there. Get ready for the real world. And that’s, by the way, the punishment to Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden is that the essential features of your life are going to be hard. And I’m not naive, but I don’t do pessimism. It’s just what you’ve got to do. 

But I could see this year, we could lose it. Not the outside. That we ourselves, if we don’t watch, if it wasn’t for the first, for the people, the Ben Gvirs, the Smotrichs, the ultra-nationalists, the racists, the worst part, the bad part of us and our tradition, could really win. 

Now even when I sensed it, it activated me to re-energize and to work harder. But part of what we all have to know and why we have to be even more committed to working harder is this year, I felt that we could lose it. 

Yossi: Interesting, Donniel. 

Donniel: And those two are my like, this is what I’m sitting on now before Rosh Hashana. 

Yossi: I find both of those insights very moving and I personally identify strongly with both. I would qualify the second point yb expanding it. We could lose it in several ways. One is through the uncontrolled rise of the racist far-right, but also through the disintegration of a certain minimal cohesiveness that we took for granted as being the bedrock of Israeliness. And I, aftee this last year, I don’t take that for granted anymore. And I’m not so sure that we could take for granted that we’re all in this together. Because we don’t quite know what this is anymore.

And we need, one of the things we need to know, and I know this is really at the top of the Hartman Institute’s agenda for the coming years is receating and reempowering a majority that we know exists arpund the idea of the classical, liberal, democratic state. But that’s something we can no longer take for granted in the way that I think many of us did.

In terms of the uplift, of being part of the reempowering of the Israeli center, do you know, Donniel, the hardest thing for me to be away now, from in Israel is not to be at the weekly demonstrations? I come back from the demonstrations of feeling this sense of, it’s more than hope. Exhiliration. It’s victory. I feel that the demonstrations are themselves a kind of celebration of victory. And we already have won. No one would bave believed that 37 weeks into the protest movement, not only would they not lose their vigor, but they’re growing in intensity. 

Donniel: I know, like tonight we have this big demonstration. Yossi, I am so excited, I just came back from Australia and by, a shout out to all my friends and my new friends in Australia. It was great being with you. And by the way, I don’t know if you know this, while I was there, For Heaven’s Sake became the number one Jewish podcast in Australia. 

So but I’m exhausted and there’s this demonstratation, I went Saturday night, but today it’s been a long day, the demonstrations, I want to go home. But I can’t, I just can’t. Right after this podcast, I’m going, I got my flag. It’s like, we’re, and I know, Yossi, that as exhausted as I am now, I will be so grateful because I’m getting to experience that power of that first. 

Let’s shift a little bit to the year. No utopianism, nothing, you know, world peace, you know, and we’re going to end hunger. No utopian, you know, what do you want? 

What do you think? Like when you look, what’s a sense of hope? Even for a Yossi.

Yossi: So let me surprise you, Donniel. What I just said a moment ago was not just wishful thinking. I believe we’ve already won. That doesn’t mean, by any means, that we need to lessen the intensity of thr struggle. But in historical terms, we’ve won. We’ve won because we’ve proven that the, as you put it, the passive and amorphous center has been galvanized, and that’s not going away.

There is now a camp in Israel, and we can define that as the classical, Zionist, democratic camp, that has been energized beyond imagination. And the democratic camp has been a major force, maybe the major force, in Israeli politics. And I think that’s going to find expression, for example, in the local, the municipal elections that are coming up in October. It’s going to find expression in terms of social action on local levels. Israel is on its way to being transformed. That’s first of all.

Secondly, I sense a growing unease within parts of the unorthodox community. Certainly within religious Zionism. And we know that religious Zionism is not a monolith. The far-right has hijacked religious Zionism politically. And the unease that’s there, and we know it just anecdotally, from friends, from conversation with family. That, I believe, in the coming months, is going to start taking a more of a public and coherent expression.

And finally, even in the Haredi world, the ultra-Orthodox world, where obviously public criticism is far more delicate and unacceptable socially, I think there are rumblings there, and this sense that maybe the community went too far in taking too much. And that there’s going to be a price to pay. The backlash, it’s not coming, it’s already here. When have we ever had a march of thousands of secular and moderate religious women into the heart of the ultra-Orthodox community?

So I sense fear in the ultra-Orthodox community. Legitemate fear. And I’m hoping that that’s going to translate into some kind of a quai-public, however public debate happens in the ultra-Orthodox community, into a sort of cheshbon nefesh, an introspective self-questioning. 

Donniel: Beautiful. So you’re, in many ways, you’ve identified three features of this last year that are emerging that you believe are going to have a really significant role in healing or the foundation for optimism in the coming year. 

For me, the coming year, I see something but it’s a challenge. I don’t feel it’s an inevitable force that’s happening. It’s in our hands. And as I’ve said many times on this podcast and elsewhere, the judicial reform unleashed a reflectiveness about Zionism and about Judaism and about the nature of the society we want to be a part of. 

And I believe in unparalleled, since the early Zionist thinkers, before we had to get involved in the maintaining of the state, there you also had a lot of reflectiveness. But I felt in Israeli society a reemergence of that. I feel that the great challenge and it’s achievable, is how do we shift from demonstrating with such clear passion against the reform and the dangers of the reform to democracy, to demonstrating against what we wanted the Supreme Court to protect. 

See, in Israeli society, we always said, I don’t have to worry about human rights. The Supreme Court will worry about it. But our challenge is the same thing in the demonstration. So let’s say we won. And let’s say the Supreme Court is still there. Our responsibility. in this coming year is to continue to demonstrate, not for the Supreme Court, but for the reasons we want in the Supreme Court, and not because we want the Supreme Court to take over, but because I as a citizen want to continue to be empowered. 

I as a citizen want to talk about Haredim. I as a citizen want to talk about women’s rights. I as a citizen want to talk about gender equality. I as a citizen want to talk about minority rights. I as a citizen want to talk about state and religion and religious pluralism. How we shift, this single, and it was wonderful, a single focused demonstration. For something that we know, this wasn’t complicated. 

Up until now the idea of complicated silenced Jewish discourse. You can have feelings and we said to you, okay, but support Israel because your problem, it’s complicated. Everybody knew. You know, getting rid of democracy, it’s like, you know, under, it’s not complicated, stop, shut up, doesn’t matter anymore, I don’t care. This, Israel has to be a democracy. But all the other issues that I just mentioned, including peace with Palestinians, whatever it is, these, even if they are complicated, our voice has to be heard. 

And my hope for this year is the seeds of this, like you mentioned, have been planted. They’re already in the demonstrations. They’re already in the public discourse. How do we shift a simple, single issue, uniting clause to, if there really is, as you and I believe, a shared, large, broad, Zionist, liberal coalition, how does that community still come out? And now, fight the fight when somebody wants to tell women how you’re supposed to dress. And when somebody wants to say, I want to take, but I don’t want to give. When somebody says that, no, you don’t have a right to live religiously the way you want to live, where Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, that their deaths are only mourned because, you know, be careful, it could spill over to our society. All those things. 

I want next year to be a year where we continue to show up. And it’ll both require us to show up, but it will require the formation of a language which inspires Israelis to now fight for this liberal Zionism and liberal Judaism and not fight for the Supreme Court so that they could fight for it. That’s the critical shift that I feel we need to have next year, for the country. 

Yossi: I think another way to put it is that the challenge for this year is how to continue maintaining the fight over the short-term dangers, while beginning to develop long-term strategies for Israeli society. And that’s the conversation that we’re having at the Hartman Institute. What are the programs that we need to begin adopting, how do we make that strategic shift, to really begin thinking, how, for example, to include the Likud in this broad, liberal coalition. The Likud was always a liberal party. The Likud defined it, Menachem Begin defined the Likud as a national, liberal party.

And so the conversation needs to stop happening just with the center, or the center-left, and it needs to expand with the center-right, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we do that at the Institute as a kind of model for what we envision for Israel. 

Donniel: Yossi, let’s take a short break and then Donniel will join us. 

Anyway, I have to say what a pleasure it was listening to the two of you talking. Okay, okay, I know my whole life I always take a joke too far, so I’m gonna stop with that, because I could keep on going, but I’ll stop. 

You know, when I look at my life as a Jew, and I look at the Hartman Institute. So much of my Judaism and of the mission of the Institute is shaped and carried by different Jewish holidays. We talk about, you’re the sum of the stories you tell yourself about yourself. You’re also the sum of the holidays that guide you and shape you. So Pesach is both the holiday of the particular Jewish memory and the value of my, I was a slave, of my story, and the legitimacy and authenticity of it being my story. 

And at the same time, it’s the holiday that reminds me that all human beings are created equal. That you have to remember to treat others the way you didn’t like to be treated. It’s the holiday in which we fight oppression. It’s the holiday for me of human rights and equality. 

Shavuos is the holiday which reminds me that ideas matter. That we are a people who live by Torah. And one of our greatest innovations in history is this idea that everybody has to study Torah. Judaism is not just deed. Judaism is thoughtfulness and guided by that. 

And I’m inspired by it. 

Tisha B’Av is a big deal for me. Tisha B’Av is, we are the greatest danger to our own society. Our hatred, our, or as you said on our podcast, our, our fanatics are the danger of fanatics.

Yossi: And our self-hatred, our hatred for each other.

Donniel: For each other. And so you could go down, or Chanukah, in the United States, in Israel, it’s different. It’s the holiday of religious pluralism and sensitivity to the rights of all to be religiously free. So each one of these holidays shapes my Jewishness. 

Sukkos is the holiday where I don’t do any theology. I don’t do any historical, Suckus is. just the joy of Judaism. And it’s like, just, I love my Sukkah, I love decorating it. 

Yossi: My favorite holiday. 

Donniel: And I have no Torah on Sukkah. I don’t, I could, I could make it a holiday of environment. There’s so many things that I could do. It’s just the one time, it’s like the antithesis of, it’s the corrective to my Shavuos. Like just a joy. It’s like just sitting in your Sukkah and the aesthetics of, it’s my joy. So each one of them shapes me, and by the way, shapes when you look at the missions and the programs of the Institute, how we are a Pesach institution, we are a Shavuos institution, we’re a Chanukah institution, we’re a Tisha B’Av institution. 

And you can almost see for each holiday a curriculum and a program that was shaped by that consciousness and stands up and says, yes, this is our place. But if I have to look at the totality of my being and also the totality of my work and of the institute that you and I are privileged to be a part of, the biggest deal is that we’re Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Jews. 

Because to be a Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Jew is to believe that next year can be better than last year. It’s to believe, to choose to believe, that we learn from the past, and there’s almost no tradition more committed to learning from the past, but we’re not defined solely by the past, or certainly the past doesn’t determine who we’re going to be. 

This 30 days, with the pinnacle of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is when we get up and say, who I was, is not who I’m necessarily gonna be. Who I was is not necessarily who I should be. And that the possibility of change, the possibility of creating a better future, you can’t do what we do, Yossi, without being defined by this myth of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. This, the hope, I’m, here it is, we are part of a tradition in which you are obligated to be an optimist about yourself. That you’re obligated to be an optimist about your people. That I’m going to say here, yes, al cheit shachatanu, there’s things that I did wrong and I repent from them. They’re not going to define me. That’s not who I am. 

And if I think there’s anything that we need to do, and if there’s a message that I want to share with myself and with the Jewish people in our audience, ladies and gentlemen, the best is yet to come. Next year is going to be remarkable. And no, we’re going to learn from this last year, but we’re not going to be stuck by it. We’re going to grow from it. And you know, that’s why we do what we do, Yoss. You know, you write an article or a book or we give a lecture because we actually believe that it matters, that somebody’s going to listen and somebody’s going to grow from it. 

And so for me, the Torah that I want to share with our audience is: Don’t waste your Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur on some technical rituals. It’s just so much bigger than that. It’s not whether you go to shul or you don’t go to shul, or whether you’re fast or you don’t fast. Our holiday cycle in general is an invitation to internalize a new religious psychology. And Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, this is the height of the year. 

And so, we should all have a good year, a year of health, a year of happiness, and a year of hope, and a year of freedom, because Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the gift that our tradition gives to us. We’re not determined. We’re not enslaved. In Egypt, we were enslaved by others. Throughout the year, we could be enslaved by ourselves. And Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is the true holiday of freedom. Last thoughts, Yossi? 

Yossi: Well Donniel, that was really aweosme, and I, you’ve done a lot of proud. 

You know, listening to you, I was thinking about how all of our holidays are rooted in historical events, are recreations of seminal Jewish historical moments, are also rooted in the agricultural cycle, except for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. These are our most elemental Jewish experiences. And what Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are really about are the creation of the world and the recreation of the world. Our ability to recreate the world by recreating ourselves.

And so, I just want to join in wishing our listeners a powerful High Holiday season of recreating ourselves as individuals, as a people, and as a world. 

Donniel: Amen, Yossi. 

For Heaven’s Sake is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institute. It wass edited by Gareth Hobbs at Silver Sound NYC. Our executive producer is Maital Friedman. M Louis Gordon is our production manager and our music is provided by Socalled. 

Major funding for For Heaven’s Sake is provided by the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation of Los Angeles because of our shared commitment to strengthen the connection between Jews in North America and Israel. 

Transcripts of our show are now available on our website, typically a week after an episode airs. To find them and to learn more about the Shalom Hartman Institute, visit us online at We want to know what you think about the show. You can rate and review us on iTunes to help more people discover the show. You can also write to us at forheavenssake at Subscribe to our show everywhere podcasts are available. See you in two weeks. Thank you for listening. 

Yossi, Shana Tova to you. A Shana Tova to our dear friend Elana who we miss tremendously this time and we wish you min hashamein, tinu chammu, and to all of Am Yisrael and to all to all of us, may this year be a good year. Shana Tova.

Yossi: Shana tova, Donniel. 

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