The value of atonement

On Monday 21st September the Dalai Lama’s approval of a new course of evening classes was reported – classes that promise to make participants happier and the world a better place. Indeed, a co-founder of Action for Happiness was quoted as saying that: "A good society is one where as many people as possible are able to live happy, fulfilling lives." That statement reflects the great value that many people place on happiness.

But whilst happiness is highly desirable, it is important to consider what its true source is. Much modern behaviour in Western countries suggests that ‘retail therapy’ is one of the most popular ways of becoming happy. There is even some scientific research that supports this idea. But, as with many other activities, the improvement in mood does not last.

So what might lead to a lasting improvement in someone’s happiness? To be secure in a positive relationship – in other words, being ‘at one’ with someone else in a positive way. This is the state of ‘atonement’ or ‘at-one-ment’. The degree of resulting happiness depends upon the importance of the relationship. And the Bibles makes it clear that our relationship with God is by far the most important. Thus the Day of Atonement (or Yom Kippur) is a very important day for Jews – a day to fast and focus upon one’s relationship with God, it is one of the Biblical feasts.

Biblical Feasts pamphlet

This year the Day of Atonement starts in the evening of 22nd September and runs through to the evening of 23rd September. But Jews in Israel will not be able to focus totally upon their relationship with God. Not only are there the increased tensions we reported on last week, but there is also the abiding memory of the 1973 Yom Kippur War when their enemies in Egypt and Syria took advantage of this important religious festival to mount a surprise attack.

Consequently, substantial security arrangements have been put in place to maintain law and order during the holiday. How sad it is that thousands of police will need to be on duty in the city of Jerusalem on what should be a special day for its residents.