In the run up to Yom Kippur, a Reform minyan at a college in Boston–well, technically outside of Boston…actually it’s in Cambridge….FINE, IF YOU MUST KNOW, it’s Harvard–is trying something NEW and DIFFERENT.
To lure students into participating in Yom Kippur, that onerous holiest day of the year, the Harvard Hillel is encouraging students to tweet the sins for which they presumably must atone. For those looking, the hashtag is #AlChetHarvard, but predictably enough, more people have tweeted about the story itself than tweeted their sins. From the Crimson:
“Yom Kippur is more or less your last shot at a clean slate for the New Year,” said Michael J. Gil ’14, co-chair of the Reform Minyan. “So for the last few years we’ve been working to personalize the confessional part of the Yom Kippur services.”
For a holiday meant to make one humble, the idea of broadcasting one’s sins into the ether seems the opposite. One of the knocks on social media is that it has enabled users to stumble their way into new levels of self-absorption than ever previously imaginable. Showcasing one’s piety–however well-intentioned–seems to fit within this very real sin that we’re all guilty of.
Meanwhile, at a Rosh Hashanah service in Miami Beach, a rabbi encouraged a crowd of young adults to text (interactively and anonymously) in response to various prompts given throughout a 90-minute service. The responses appeared on a screen behind the rabbi on the bimah.
At a lectern, her phone within easy reach, Rabbi Morrison told the 150 or so young people arrayed before her that “texting will give you a voice in the service.”
But are worshipers entitled to individual voices within the context of prayer? Some might argue yes and, given the format of this forum, I’ll leave it to the commenters to add their voice. Judaism has persisted over the millennia because of its mutability, but at the same time, I’m inclined to see this trend of something of a capitulation to the forces of vanity and self-fascination that we’re supposed to bring to a heel during the High Holidays.