The website of Rabbi Moshe Pitchon

Iamim Noraim The High Holidays

Tellingly, the Torah and prophetic sections designed to be read during the High Holidays are not those that have to do with God’s creation of the universe-  supposed subject of Rosh ha-Shanah. Instead, tradition chose to read biblical passages dealing with the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael not as Jews but as a mother and a son, as well as the emotional and moral conflicts surrounding the near sacrifice of Isaac.

“Such omissions,” noted Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, “suggest a deliberate decision to deflect attention from the creation event and place emphasis upon human moral struggles.”

On Yom Kippur afternoon, the Torah reading includes Leviticus 19: 17, where the loud message there is “lo tisna” (“You shall not hate.”)

Lo tisna means that we should understand that the hate pervading our world is unacceptable if we want to believe that there is an entity called “humanity.” Lo tisna implies that we shouldn’t justify any lies and violence that chip away the concept of human commonality.

Closing the Torah reading on Yom Kippur, we open the book of Jonah to remind us that even a Jewish prophet is chastised for refusing to call out the evil generated by a powerful nation