Secrets Revealed - High Holy Days and the Openness of Judaism -- Posted by hazzanmenes
Secrets are in the news. The disclosure of government secrets to Wikileaks and other news sources have caused us to question what information should be publicly available and what shouldn't. Social networks on the Internet have made information more readily available whether we like it or not.
Judaism has no problem with secrets. There is nothing hidden in Judaism. There are no aspects of the religion which are only accessible to the chosen few. There are no places which are off-limits. There are no decisions or rules regarding the community which are made behind closed-doors. Other religions hide their practices. Other religions have places and buildings which grant access to a privileged few. Yet if one is a Jew, everything known about Judaism is open to them. It still may require study to access or understand, but it is there.
Judaism has evolved. At one time, it was a cult. As we read in the Service of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, there were places to which only the High Priest had access. Noone knew what occurred in the Holy of Holies. That place is gone. Even the Oral Torah, passed down by word of mouth and accessible to only the rabbis, after great study, is accessible to everyone. While we still have the concept of the Oral Torah, it is now written and open to anyone - Jew or otherwise - who has the desire to study the Talmud. Much of the synagogue service is still an oral tradition. Until the last 50 years, the prayer modes and the mesorah for cantillation were not publicly available. It just wasn't written down. That has changed. Websites, such as my own, attempt to make this information broadly available, to remove the mystical aura and hierarchical barriers of the religion.
There is an aspect of every Jew's life that is private, that is properly revealed to God alone. On Yom Kippur we reveal ourselves to God and pray that He reveals himself to us. But there is no part of Judaism as a religion which is private. All of the rules, institutions, and writings are open to study and question. When community institutions act privately and hide their decisions and justifications, they violate the very premise of Judaism. Judaism need not protect itself by darkness. Rather, it is through the open knowledge of every part of the religion that it thrives. The Shofar blasts on Rosh HaShanah celebrate the revelation of God, that even the mystery of our Creator can be known to us - all of us.
One of our goals at TBS is to make all of the information about Judaism available to every one with a desire to find out. If God reveals just a piece of the universe through Judaism, then it is our responsibility to proclaim it, broadcast it, struggle with it, and teach it. This year, when you hear the shofar blasts, think of them as the school bell, bringing us back from recess: it is time to learn and to teach.