Today, members of the Jewish faith around the world are observing the holiest day in their religious calendar, Yom Kippur -- the Day of Atonement. As the scriptural passage on today's editorial page recalls, this holy day was specifically ordained by God thousands of years ago and its commandments have been followed consistently throughout the millennia.
Repairing the world through prayer, repentance and acts of charity is part of Yom Kippur's focus. That message should have particular resonance today. At a time when terrorists, in the name of religion, are waging a "holy" war of murder and hatred, it's important to remember the life-affirming power of prayer and the need of each man, each woman, to recognize the role of personal responsibility in the year to come.
Personal challenges: In the past two weeks, Americans have accepted the challenge of taking responsibility, perhaps as never before. The outpouring of kindness by those who would repair damage to our nation and its people has been unprecedented: incredible bravery and sacrifice, hundreds of millions of dollars donated, more than 300,000 pints of blood freely given, countless volunteer hours given to meet the needs of others.
During the Jewish high holidays, from Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, through Yom Kippur, the piercing blast of the ram's horn rouses the individual from spiritual and behavioral complacency.
The blasts that pierced the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have awakened Americans from their own complacency. Those who never prayed were moved to prayer. Those had never given blood rolled up their sleeves. Those who had little to give found ways to give nonetheless.
The hope embodied in Yom Kippur prayers is also that the vows one makes to oneself and those made to God are kept beyond the immediacy of the day.
Keep promises year-round: That, too, should become a mission for Americans: that the prayers, the charity, the promises of loving kindness to all Americans -- especially to those less fortunate -- offered at this time of great urgency will still be kept weeks and months from now.
If Americans return to the values which made this nation great, if they simply honor the golden rule, loving their neighbors as themselves -- as they have done millions of times over the past two weeks -- individuals will be strengthened, communities will be strengthened, and the nation will be strengthened. When individuals discover the personal power they have to repair the hurt and broken parts of our country, then the United States will be a spiritual superpower as well as an economic and military superpower.