The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism - DR ERICA BROWN

“The whole com­mu­nity came for­ward and stood be­fore the Lord” Leviti­cus 9:5

IN the midst of verses about sac­ri­fices and kosher and non-kosher an­i­mals, we find this in­cred­i­ble ex­pres­sion of unity and sol­i­dar­ity. When Aaron brought a col­lec­tive sin of­fer­ing, “the whole com­mu­nity came for­ward and stood be­fore the Lord”. Per­haps there is no other verse in the To­rah that presents this ex­pres­sion of communal re­gret and communal ac­count­abil­ity.

We do not have a col­lec­tive sin of­fer­ing to­day. Although the lan­guage of our High Holy Day pray­ers is writ­ten in the plu­ral, it is al­most al­ways used to ex­press the sin­gu­lar dis­ap­point­ments and frus­tra­tions of a lone pen­i­tent. “For the sin which we have sinned” through de­ri­sion, scorn, gos­sip and triv­i­al­is­ing par­ents and teach­ers be­comes our per­sonal state­ment of sin. We men­tion these sins in whis­pered privacy even as we stand among fam­ily, friends and neigh­bours.

Although we have of­fer­ings brought by in­di­vid­u­als in our an­cient worship, we also had col­lec­tive sin of­fer­ings. We had to re­flect as an en­tire com­mu­nity on our joint mis­takes. To­day, were we to bring a col­lec­tive sin of­fer­ing for high­pro­file Jewish white-col­lar criminals, the of­fer­ing would be very heavy in­deed. We might add to our eth­i­cal mishaps, our fail­ure to solve prob­lems like the high cost of Jewish liv­ing or our lack of warmth and friend­li­ness as a peo­ple or the fact that we have so few good Jewish lead­ers.

With the loss of the Taber­na­cle and then the Tem­ple, we have lost pre­cious op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­press joy as a com­mu­nity and col­lec­tive re­gret. Be­cause you can­not be a Jew alone, you can­not take ac­count­abil­ity alone. Some­times we must face to­gether what we do wrong so that we can right it. That’s pre­cisely when the whole com­mu­nity must come for­ward and stand be­fore God.

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