Varied Jewish Thoughts on Atonement
A sinful world needs a scapegoat.
-T. Lessing, DerJudesche Selbsthass, 1930, Introd. LR 188
We strike from all bequeathed prayerbooks any line that reminds us of the temple and sacrifices.
-M. Lilienthal, address, 1876
As soon as one repents, one is forgiven.
-Hanina b. Papa, Talmud: Hagiga, 5a
We do not ask that our past sins be forgiven in the sense that their effects may be cancelled…All we can and do ask for is better insight, purer faith, fuller strength.
-Montefiore, Liberal Judaism, 1903, p. 164
The Day of Atonement will achieve nothing for him who says, “I’ll sin and on the Day of Atonement will atone.”
-Mishna: Yoma 8, 9
I believe in the national meaning of the Messianic dogma and hope for a rational restoration, yet I am free to confess that the reinstitution of the bloody sacrificial ritual does not form part and parcel of these hopes and promises.
-I. N. Mannheemer, Theologische Gutachtes Uber das Gebetbuch, 1842, p. 94f, QPRM, 87
Before commencing the Selihot service, the Baal Shem Tov related the following parable.
“A man lost in a forest wandered for several days trying to find a way out. He felt greatly enheartened when, suddenly looking up, he saw a man walking toward him. ‘Now,’ he bethought himself, ‘I’ll learn how to get out of here,’ and he asked when the man approached, ‘I’ve been lost in this forest for some days. Can you show me the way out?’
“The stranger replied, ‘I’m lost myself and don’t know the way back. But I can tell you that the road you’re on now isn’t the right one. Let’s try together to find a way out.’
“So it is with us,” the Baal Shem Tov went on. “I know that the road we’ve traveled thus far will only lead us astray. Let us join together to discover the right way.”
-Rosh Hashanah parables; Rosh Hashanah Anthology, Jewish Publication Society, copyright 1970