We have arrived at another Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, 5780. It is the first of the Ten Days of Repentance that begin this year at sundown on Sept. 29 and end with the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.
Though it is we Jews who are told in Leviticus, the third book of the Bible, to focus for these 10 days on atoning for our sins of the past year, Judaism views the first Rosh Hashanah as the day the world was created for everyone. In that sense, this holiday not only tells Jews worldwide to repent, but beckons all human beings.
It’s necessary for our peace of mind and for our relations with others that throughout the year we hold ourselves accountable and repent for our behaviors that are off the mark. Entering the Jewish New Year, Jews particularly focus on this. We are taught that we have within us an inclination to do good and an inclination to do evil; God gives us free will to choose which inclination we will follow from moment to moment. The sincerity of our repentance may determine whether we are “sealed in the Book of Life” for another year.
Regular study of the Torah (the “Five Books of Moses” at the beginning of the Bible) helps us acquire wisdom from God regarding the difference between good and evil and how to spot inner and outer adversaries to our being good. Free will requires that we have alternatives, e.g., adversaries to our doing the good that God fervently hopes we will do. Our inner adversary is our evil inclination; it is readily attracted to the deceptive allure of outer adversaries.
Repenting and being good in our daily life requires that we develop inner strength and a keen awareness of the tireless efforts by external adversaries to get us to abandon God’s values for theirs. I will focus here only on what seems to be the most menacing and alluring current adversary: leftism/Marxism (an umbrella term that includes progressivism/socialism/leftism/Marxism/Communism).
Leftism/Marxism is the antithesis of Judaism, Torah, God, and Judeo-Christian values. Whereas Judaism teaches that a higher, all-knowing, moral God chose to create us human beings, atheist leftism/Marxism teaches that we humans arose solely by chance from nothing. This one difference (among many) has major implications that explain Judaism’s benefits and leftism/Marxism’s record of destructiveness.
According to Judaism, our worth comes from a moral God choosing to create us and to “make man in Our image.” We are wanted, loved and, though flawed, have the ability to be creative, think, learn, choose, and do good. Each of us is created with equal inherent worthiness to be treated with dignity. Since we have the same lineage (Adam and Eve), no one inherits a higher status, sex, race, etc. The commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself” naturally follows. Our ability to use our free will to be good to each other offers a path to spiritual and material well-being, gratitude, meaning, and happiness.
On the other hand, Karl Marx: “What [individuals] are coincides with their production.” This idea, together with Marx’s atheism and view of humans as a mere chance result of random occurrences, reduces our worth to that of a rock, which, for example, can be useful to stand on. That we are mere expendables to be used is evidenced by the record of eventual totalitarian oppression, poverty, enslavement, and murder in leftist/Marxist regimes.
What such regimes offer in place of the genuine worth provided by God loving us and us emulating God by loving each other is pseudo-worth: rather than by loving our neighbor, leftism/Marxism teaches its adherents to find worth in feeling morally superior to groups of people they are taught to view as hating them and as having achieved better material circumstances in life by cheating them. In place of “love your neighbor” is envy, demonize, and detest your neighbor.
Adherents are taught to deny their human evil inclination by projecting it onto others and then hating them for it. Contrary to classic liberalism and Judaism, for example, leftism/Marxism views expression of a differing opinion as aggression stemming from hatred sufficient to justify physical violence in response.
The bad news? Each of us is capable of following our evil inclination, to include adopting leftism/Marxism and its ways. The good news? We have God, Torah, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur to help us remember and rejuvenate our goodness.
By facing what is low within us, we seek in these Ten Days of Repentance to strengthen our higher places within so as to do good and to become immune to the adversaries from without.
Deane Shore Berson has lived in the Pikes Peak area since 1974. His email: firstname.lastname@example.org