Sundown tonight marks the beginning of the holiest 24 hours on the Jewish calendar. The evening service, known as Kol Nidre, ushers in Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, a somber period of fasting, reflection and repentance, which lasts until sundown tomorrow night.
According to Jewish belief, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to seal the verdict. We take a frank look at mistakes we have made in the past year, and what we can do to right those wrongs. We consider ways to become a better person.
This day of introspection and prayer is preceded by a hearty evening meal of challah, brisket or chicken, noodle kugel or other calorie-laden Jewish dishes that purport to stave off the hunger pangs tomorrow (note: it doesn’t work). After our bellies are stuffed with apple cake and rugelach, we will stagger from the table and leave for synagogue.
But … wait a minute. Isn’t there a baseball game tonight? The Very Important Game 5 of the National League Division Series between our beloved Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals?
This is a perfect example of religious beliefs and modern culture colliding in a most inconvenient way.
This dilemma has presented itself in the past, perhaps most famously in the case of Sandy Koufax. Jewish people are fond of recalling the decision of the legendary Brooklyn/ L.A. Dodgers pitcher who declined to pitch Game One of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. A mensch (good person), say the Chosen People with pride. Really? question those for whom baseball IS a religion.
My friends, unlike the ancient scribes who pondered these things for a living, I do not have the answer. Nor will I judge you one way or the other, whatever your decision may be. I will leave you with a joke published in The Philadelphia Inquirer this morning:
“No problem,” says the rabbi. “You can record it.”
“Oh!” the guy cries. “That’s great! I didn’t know you could record Kol Nidre!”
Shana Tova, and may all of you, no matter what your faith, be inscribed in the Book of Life.
And go Phillies!