DERASH FOR YOM KIPPUR, 5772 (ARTHUR R. ROBINSON)
THIS IS THE FAST THAT I HAVE CHOSEN
Jews have listened to Isaiah 58 on Yom Kippur morning for at least 1800 years: This is My chosen fast: to loosen all the bands that bind men unfairly, to let the oppressed go free, take the homeless into your home, clothe the naked when you see him, do not turn away from people in need …
Our Christian neighbors, when they seek a religious basis for social action, quote the passage above and other Prophetic ones similar to what we have just heard this morning, rather than any- thing from the New Testament. In this regard, at least, we have indeed been a light to the nations.
Even the secular Zionism of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, while not being moti- vated directly by religious concerns, sought to establish a state with a social order based on compas- sion, justice, and kindness, making possible a life of dignity for its inhabitants — — in short, to fulfill Isaiah’s vision. It has not been clear in recent years whether this vision still motivates the new gen- eration of Israelis, those in their late twenties, thirties and early forties.
Any such doubts have been dispelled by the remarkable events of this last Summer when hundreds of thousands of Israelis, secular and religious, Eastern and Western, set up tents in the streets and boulevards of cities from Haifa to Beersheva, crying out that the nation’s leadership has gone astray. The most serious of the protests relate to the tremendous shortage and high prices of hous- ing inside the Green Line, partly because of a lack of government regulation. Large subsidies have gone to those in the West Bank, a small number compared with those who need small apartments at reasonable prices. A second major concern is the level of inequality in the society, a level that approaches that in the U.S., with the new millionaires living in gated communities and others deal- ing with large increases in prices of food and fuel. The middle class who work in finance and hous- ing have done very well; those in other sectors have no longer been able to maintain a middle-class style of living. At the height of the protests, one of these new multimillionaires spent $2 million on a wedding for his daughter!
The organizers of the tent cities banned signs for political parties. There was no violence and little disruption, considering the large numbers of people involved in the middle of cities.
All in all, it seems that the message of Isaiah is alive and well in the new generation of Israelis.