Jesus told his disciples a parable:
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”
When I read this passage today, I read it in the light of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It is the day of atonement.—“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d” (Leviticus 16:30). Though perhaps it is by simple chance that this reading is today linked to this day of atonement; when Jesus says “remove the wooden beam from your own eye first”, Yom Kippur seems to focus on the removal of that beam through the atonement of sin. This day is rich in tradition with each ritual focusing on a different aspect of atonement or the confession and forgiveness of sin, and it is the clarity of vision that comes from atonement that allows one to guide another safely on a journey. This is looking at a tradition different from my own, though most certainly related to Christianity. Yom Kippur is the atonement from the worshiping of the golden calf, the almighty forgiveness for mans transgressions on his journey. Contained within it is the guidance that comes through repentance and correction. One tradition is the Malkot or lashing symbolic of the punishment of sin. It reminds me of the pointed tip of a bishops crosier used to prod the flock in the correct direction so that they might avoid the pit. It is the pain of sin. It is the scourging at the pillar. Yom Kippur is a day of prayer and fasting that is so important in seeking direction. Yom Kippur contains a ritual Kaparot where sins, in a unique symbolic ritual (involving chickens) , are atoned for through charity; and that charity is so important in Christ’s message to his disciples. Finally there is that ritual of Tashlich; the casting off of sins by water. Water that is “living water”, water by which Israel’s kings were anointed, and the waters of baptism. Simply reading about Tashlich brings to light so much of Christ’s teachings. Here one can learn the Jewish approach to water and its symbolism. Fish, such an ancient symbol of Christianity, are described through Jewish eyes in reading on this ritual of atonement. Of course there are the words, the prayers of this tradition, and the riches they contain. Jesus parable is much about discipleship, and how to prepare to be a disciple. Atonement of sin is an important step for the preparation of a disciple and though I can not take part in the ceremonies of this Yom Kippur, I certainly can learn from the lessons and traditions of this holy day.