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Isaiah, Awe and rest

Today is the fourth day of our text; we’re not quite halfway through the Awe.

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

It’s not a big thing, but I noticed, this year, that cease is chadal. Not that there’s a problem with the translation, because there isn’t: chadal means, clearly, to stop doing something. But there are connected words that seem to be hinting more towards resting from doing something. And it occurred to me to think about that idea of resting from doing evil.

I think of doing good as being a lot of work, because it is, in fact, a lot of work. And I think of doing evil as being less work, not so much because it’s impossible to do bad works industriously but because the sin I myself am least able to vanquish is laziness. When I think of my shortcomings, I mostly think of things I failed to do, rather than things I did. And, frankly, when I discover someone I know going to great lengths to be petty or make their enemies miserable, I have difficulty getting my head around it. Among people I don’t know, it’s even scarier, of course; the atrocities of the Islamic State, for instance, seem like such a colossal use of energy for so little benefit to themselves. Even though we confess as a community, though, I can’t help my own bias, and think of our shortcomings in terms of my own life.

Still. The idea of resting from wickedness is appealing to me. A reward, I suppose, for giving up our bad habits.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


If we're resting from evil, when do we resume doing evil? Is that once Simchat Torah is over? Or is it part of the break-fast?

There's an acknowledgment with the temporary nature of "rest" that we are imperfect humans who can strive for perfection but not permanently stop doing evil, as with Kol Nidre when we ask for pardon into the coming year.

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