- Religion and Philosophy
YOM KIPPUR 2013
Who do you think you're fooling? God? Surely not because there is no way that you could ever deceive the Almighty. So why in the world would you persist in performing in a lie, year after year, especially on this most sacred of days, Yom Kippur? Perhaps 'performing' is the key word? It's all an act and we perceive ourselves as so clever that we actually deceive ourselves. I am referring to something you have most likely witnessed yourselves or perhaps are guilty of doing yourself, yet you never objected, never questioned, and certainly didn't try to stop. I'm referring to the emptiness of prayer, the portrayal of righteousness without any substance. The most glaring affront to God possible and yet instead of tossing out those whom commit such acts from our midst and reviling them, we often have raised them up as pillars of our rabbinical societies. How can I be certain of their fraudulent acts of faithfulness? I merely have to observe, count the seconds as the words pass from their lips and know that they are truly deceivers, liars, charlatans, attempting to deceive God, and in so doing insulting our heritage, our people and our faith. There are some things that are humanly possible and some things that are simply pure hypocrisy.
Doing The Impossible
Let me provide you with some facts. The world's fastest speaker can read or speak at a rate of almost 640 words per minute except if you heard him you would not understand a single word. You actually have to slow down a recording of his voice to hear that he was saying the words correctly. He is unique, essentially a freak and of what use is the power of speech if you cannot make yourself understood. Any of you that have attended an auction probably thought the auctioneer was spitting out the words at supersonic speeds but in actuality, they're only speaking at 250 words per minute and that's after years of practice and training with repetitive syllables that provide essentially a rhythm. When we talk in conversation, we are talking at a speed of between 110 to 150 wpm. Not a blistering rate but one at least where we can make ourselves understood and usually don't have to repeat ourselves.
Hebrew as we all know is a far more guttural language requiring extra tones and constrictions at the back of the throat to produce some of the hard sounds, so definitely not a fluid and smooth language that it can set speed records against English or most other languages. Now perhaps one could argue that God doesn't have to hear the words because he knows what is already in our hearts, but if that is the case, then why commit the fraud and deception in the first place by standing in front of the congregation, shukuling, bowing and crying out with every fiftieth or so word so that everyone else can marvel at their speed of devotion.
I urge you to listen to the Zemirot, the hymnal versus as the recite the heavenly song on the Shabbos and count the seconds. Close to two thousand four hundred words and most of our pious and righteous brethren will be finished in just over eight minutes. They are singing their praises at a blinding 291 words per minute. Five words per second and considering some of those words have three or four syllables you can imagine the unprecedented skill all these fine gentlemen must have in order to achieve this feat. Try it yourself. You'll be lucky to say 'hocus pocus' in one second yet these men sustain this magical rate for over eight minutes.
Or perhaps Alenu L'shebaya is more their style with its two hundred and fourteen words which the adept ones of our congregations can usually complete in just under forty seconds. Reading at a speed of close to 350 words per minute but its more than reading because part of Alenu as a devotional prayer means that we should be mouthing each word as if it is being spoken from our hearts.
The truth of the matter is they cannot do it. Its a charade, an act, a performance designed to say, "Look at Me!, Aren't I wonderful!" No, God does not consider their hypocrisy wonderful, admirable, or worthy of acknowledgement. I can only presume that the Almighty would hope that you make note of these false pillars of morality and recognize that they bring your house of prayers, your congregations, your devotion into question and perhaps the Lord will not separate the wheat from the chaff. Perhaps this Yom Kippur he will consider us all guilty of the same hypocrisy that has always plagued our people since our inception.
If you go to the synagogue, temple or house of worship, then place upon your lips what is in your heart. If you don't want to be there, if it is just an exercise to go through the motions and get if over with as quickly as possible, then don't go. Let us sing the praises to the Lord as if they are the most important words we could ever utter. If it should take an entire day to sing a single stanza then so be it. At least pray with conviction rather than with some deluded intent of deception. God does see, God does know and you may fool the other congregation members but is that why your are actually there?
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana