Russell P. Subin

I am a sinner; don’t judge me

My mind wanders on Yom Kippur, and I'll likely cast aspersions on the people I see. Do I atone for that now, or can it wait for next year?
Secular and religious Israelis at the conclusion of Yom Kippur services in the community center in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv. (Courtesy of Tzohar)
Secular and religious Israelis at the conclusion of Yom Kippur services in the community center in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv. (Courtesy of Tzohar)

I confess, I am a sinner. When I previously confessed this publicly no one was listening – except G-d.

Why is it that no one was listening? Everyone else was too busy publicly confessing their own sins, at least in a very generic sense. They did this during the Shemoneh Esreh on past Yom Kippurs as we all chanted Al Chet Sh’chatanu (for the sins which we have committed) first quietly then together out loud. The Al Chet is a list of sins, but without any specificity of the facts surrounding the sin.

We pound our chests when we say each Al Chet. Some of us pound harder than others. I can hear you. Are you pounding that hard because you did something really really bad? It’s okay. Who am I to judge? Some of you have a lot more kavanah (sincerity) than I do when chanting Al Chet. Is your kavanah stronger than mine because you did something worse than I did or are you just more serious in asking for forgiveness than I am? There I go again, trying to judge you. Do I need to atone for that sin now or does that go to next year?

I can’t help myself. My mind wanders even on Yom Kippur. I know what the guy sitting two rows ahead of me did. I read it in the papers. There, I’m doing it again with the judging. Maybe he was framed or there was some kind of misunderstanding. I don’t know all the facts. Sounds bad though. Maybe his atonement this year might change his plight. He could be found not guilty or get off easy with a fine and no jail time. But it sure looks like the shul might have to do without his large donation this year and possible for a very very long time.

I’ve witnessed some of the sins of my fellow congregants. I saw the pompous behavior of the guy over a couple of seats to my left. He thinks because of all the kiddushes he sponsored he can push to the front of the line at every kiddush. In fact, I saw him open a bottle of soda and spill it all over the floor. He walked away and thought no one saw while not caring that someone could slip on his mess. Guess what? I saw him and cleaned up the danger he left behind. At least he’s not the guy always in front of the scotch. There is no way that guy would spill a drop. Oh no. But he sure did when he had way too much to drink. It’s one thing to partake to have a spirited Shabbat, but dude every Shabbat is not Purim. Am I judging again?

The guy on the other side of the aisle three rows in front of me, I saw him and his wife in the supermarket. Looked like he was talking very harshly to her. He demeaned her. Maybe she did something really wrong to deserve it. Maybe he was hungry. After all, they were food shopping and maybe he will apologize later. But the tone he took certainly didn’t make him look like the good guy in a bad marriage. What does he do or say to her at home? Maybe she goads him on? But is that really the point? How long can he go on like that? Will he give a Get if she asks? There it is again, judging.

It can’t go unsaid, I have been a tax lawyer for all my professional life. So I do look at everyone and ask myself the following question: Did you take an unreasonable position on your tax return thus forcing others to pay more than their fair share. You know that is stealing from the rest of us. It is not a victimless crime. But yes, it’s judgy of me.

Great biblical figures were sinners. Moses hit the rock, Noah hit the bottle, and David arguably hit on Batsheva, another man’s wife. And who am I to judge these great biblical figures and you?

I will tell you who I am to judge. I am a simpleton, a layman, and a nobody. I judge you because I am human. I am simply wrong for doing this and that is one reason I am a sinner. I will atone for this and will strive not to do it again.

There are appropriate venues, people, and times to judge others with due process for actual crimes. However, the rest of the time we should refrain from judging other people.

We are all sinners in one way or another. If you deny that, that in of itself is a sin. The most righteous people all say Al Chet with the rest of the congregation and acknowledge their sins.

Therefore, this year I will strive not to judge you because of your sins. It simply isn’t my place or anyone else’s place to judge. There are many other things I need to work on and atone for. You should too. Is my saying that to you being judgy?

May God judge all of us with mercy this coming year.

Disclaimer: The above is a compilation of many stories based on facts but artistic liberty has been taken. It is not intended to illustrate any particular person or place.

About the Author
Russell Subin is a retired US tax lawyer living in Ra'anana, Israel.
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