The High Holidays Vs. Socialism
By: Jeff Dunetz
With the setting of the sun on Sunday, September 25th, Jews worldwide will begin the observance known as the High Holidays or the “Yomim Noraim” (Days of Awe). It is a ten-day period book-ended by Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
The High Holiday period is all about personal responsibility. All the prayers and readings are just tools to help us look inward and formulate a personal accounting of our deeds over the past year, both good and bad, to understand what we have learned and still need to learn and correct.
The steps a Jewish individual goes through during the Yomim Noraim are contrary to concepts within Socialism.
One thing emphasized during the Days of Awe is that our Maker is not like a massive government that will fix everything for us. Mistakes made to other people first need an approach the people we harmed to request forgiveness and, if necessary, make restitution to them. Then we must discover what led us to behave that way and correct the flaw catalyzing such behavior. Only after those steps can we approach God for absolution. It’s not that God cannot fix everything, but his direct involvement would destroy the delicate balance set up during creation. In other words, the universe works best with a limited government.
In Socialism, a huge government tells us what and when to act. There is minimal personal choice or responsibility. The basic concept of Socialism is that the government controls product production, distribution, and sales. To execute this type of economy which takes away so much freedom, a government must have ironclad control of human behavior.
During the High Holidays, Jews are working toward becoming a better people. Socialism directs people to become better servants to the government.
There is no word in Hebrew matching the English word “sin.” The word used is “chet-“An archery term that refers to an arrow that “missed the target.” A person who missed the mark is considered to have made a mistake due to a lack of focus, concentration, or skill. The purpose of the High Holidays is for each of us to determine why we missed the mark. The answer cannot come from someone else or a government that directs behavior. It has to come from inside each person.
The Hebrew word commonly translated as repentance, Teshuvah, actually means return, as in we returned to the correct path. Its real meaning is much more than just repentance, which is a word that implies merely feeling sorry for what you have done. Teshuvah involves changing what is inside you that led you to go off-course. Jews believe that the Torah is a guide to the correct course. Socialists believe it’s the government providing the directions.
To reach the goal of Teshuva, we were given a roadmap that can be found in the Torah, Prophets, Psalms, and other sacred texts. He even gave us coaches (Rabbis). But to truly change ourselves and ultimately change the world, we must discover the best way to read and interpret the roadmap. That is why in Parsha Nitzavim (Devarim chapter 30), it says the Torah is not in heaven “Rather, [this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and your heart so that you can fulfill it.”
The creation narrative in Genesis explains that man is created in God’s image. With those words, the Torah is not teaching us that we are all dead ringers for the “big guy upstairs.” If that were the case, everyone’s driver’s license would have the same picture. Eyewitness testimony would be useless. Everyone would have the same DNA forcing Discovery ID and other real-life crime shows out of business.
The idea of “created in God’s image” teaches us that just as God acts as a free being without prior restraint to do right and wrong, so does man. Our Maker performs “good” as a matter of free choice. And because we are created in his image, man also has the opportunity to do the right thing as a matter of free choice. Only through free choice can man truly be “in the image of God.”
That is why God created a world where both good and evil can operate freely. The Rabbis explained this when they said, “All is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven” (Talmud, Berachot 33b). In other words, God controls all our options, but it is up to man to pick between good and bad.
Socialism controls the population’s actions. It separates us from the Almighty by removing personal responsibility, thus denying people to accept that we were “created in God’s image.”
Socialism also denies people the joy of succeeding. As the great Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky once wrote:
“Years from now, far away, you will pick up the newspaper and read of a Jewish gov’t in the Jewish land, of ministers and budgets. And the paper will fall to the floor; you’ll walk to the mirror, stand at attention, and salute yourself: for it is you who have made it.”
One of the most significant differences between the High Holidays and Socialism centers around creation. We are taught that Rosh HaShanah is the anniversary of the world’s creation. During the Yomim Noraim, we pray to the Lord to help us find the best way to recreate ourselves and avoid the mistakes we’ve made in the past year.
Socialism opposes a belief in the creator of the universe. Karl Marx famously said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” Following Marx’s lead, Socialism wants a government that will supersede God.
In its purest essence, the High Holiday period is the antithesis of the various forms of socialist governments. Jews learn from the “Ten Days of Awe” that we must be honest with ourselves and rely on our introspection to find the right path. We learn that while God may evaluate our path, but the Almighty does not make the decisions for us. The Torah teaches that we should use our hearts and the Tanach to discern the direction to follow.
Socialist governments take free will away; they make the decisions and determine the path, eliminating the need for introspection and removing our ability to find those sparks of God in the world.
The Socialist governments take from their citizens is the greatest joy of all— finding for themselves the path that will draw them closer to God and feel that closeness every time they decide to take the right path. And finding that path is what the “Yomim Noraim” are all about.
HERUT is an international movement for Jewish Unity, Zionist pride, protecting the Jewish people worldwide and Zionist education. HERUT operates per the ideals of pre-World War II Zionist leader and philosopher Ze’ev Jabotinsky. In this world where Antisemitism and hatred of Israel is at pandemic levels, it is important to be part of HERUT, a critical movement dedicated to protecting Israel and the Jewish people worldwide.