The “one day Jews,” those who express their affiliation with the Jewish community by attenting only Yom Kippur services at the synagogue, are the subject of an interesting editorial in the “Jewish Morning Journal,” Orthodox paper, in its issue before Yom Kippur.
“The complacency which is expressed on Kol Nidre night with regard to the Avaryanim (transgressors) had its origin in the time when almost all Jews attended synagogue services three times daily all the year round. In the period when the openly non-observant Jew was the exception, he was usually not welcome in the synagogue. On Yom Kippur an exception, was made with him which was, perhaps, greater than the exception he allowed himself when he came nearer to the community. In those days the Jews were stricter with those of their members who violated the Law publicly. However, when the day came on which everyone asks for forgiveness for his own sins, the attitude became milder even to the greatest transgressor. There was an unwillingness to deprive him of the opportunity to feel united with his fellow men to whom in his heart he felt bound. It mattered little how far he had gone in his estrangement.
“We may observe in the Talmud indications of such complacency pertaining to the study of the Law which was, in the eyes of the Talmudic sages, as high and perhaps higher than prayer. Studying the Law day and night was at that time recognized as a commandment which was observed by many. The uncultured, even when he was pious, was little thought of.
“None the less, we find that one of the recognized leaders of that time. Rabbi Yohanan, the Amora, expressed dissatisfaction with such an attitude in a jocular vein when he spoke of the “one day student.,” He laid down the rule that one who studies only one day in the year may be as high as he who studies all the year round. Rabbi Yohanan’s followers were not afraid that this opinion would be accepted as an authorization of one day’s study being sufficient for everybody.
“Today, the same Amora would probably have expressed the same opinion concerning those one day synagogue Jews, although the one day students as well as the one day synagogue Jew cannot be taken as an example for Jewish conduct generally. The idea is a clear and human one: one should not drive away an individual who desires to remain affiliated, although his affiliation is of a very loose nature. Half disguised measures were adopted to find a way for those who were compelled to wear an apparant mask of Christianity, although it would even then not have been difficult to storm against such individuals in the synagogue on such an occasion as that afforded by the Kol Nidre service.
“The spirit of unity was regarded higher than the letter of the Jewish Law. The community was open for all, the desire being supreme that forgiveness be granted to all and the hope being high that the estranged would return. This is a fitting spirit for the great Holy Day of the Jews in all countries and in all times. The camp of permanent Judaism is not weakened by the one day growth. Indeed, the community is strengthened by the conviction that our camp is greater than it appears on other occasions,” the editorial concludes.