High Holy Days 5780
During these High Holy Days, we have repeated the refrain during the Amidah prayers, Zochreinu l’chayim, “Remember us unto life.” How strange now at the end of it all, we remember people we loved, those who loved us, but have left us. They are gone.
During Yizkor we attempt to find meaning in death. This moment provides a resting point where we may pause and evaluate the meaning of our lives and theirs. It was a bond between imperfect people. They, like us, were full of faults, capable of great anger and great love. We forgive ourselves for how we behaved, for words not spoken, for unresolved events. We forgive our dead. They hurt us sometimes by what they said or did or what they did not say. If they were our parents, they did the best that they could. They did no less and no more. We are grateful for the gifts we gave and we received.
Rabbi Sandy Ragins of my family’s congregation in Los Angeles has officiated at hundreds of baby namings during his career. Besides the usual blessings read, he will often share a line Gandalf spoke in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King –More
You have accomplished something awesome by being here together this evening.1 Erev Yom Kippur. Kol Nidrei. You have entered this sanctuary to observe the holiest day of the year. What do you find here? The beginning of a long fast. Melodies you recall from childhood. Familiar prayers heard only once in a year seeking to pry open an inner consciousness, for you to turn inward and probe. It is a day of memories: of people and places.
With a sliver of the moon in the night sky, allowing us a greater glimpse of the stars in heaven, we begin this new month like all other months. The difference is that this month of Tishrei begins with a name and not with the number “1.” It is called “Rosh Hashanah.” “Day of Judgment.” The number of a day of the month is just part of a sequence. A name seeks for you to ponder as to the origin and meaning of it. I propose that we look upon our Rosh Hashanah, our Day of Judgment differently than in year’s past. It is not God who is judging your past deeds; rather, it is you who will judge your future steps.
Did any of you ever play the quiet game on a family car ride? You know, where the goal is to see who can go the longest without talking. Once someone makes a sound though, the game is over because that is the one rule of the game. Make a sound and all bets are off. This game was very effective on my brother and me growing up whenever my mom wanted some peace and quiet in the car. In reality it only ever lasted a few minutes. But, can you imagine playing the quiet game on road trip for three days? Now that’s a long time to go without any talking. This is essentially what Abraham and Isaac do in the story of the Akeida, the Binding of Isaac. In this portion, we learn that Abraham is instructed by G-d to sacrifice Isaac and during the three days during which they travel to this site of sacrifice, there are no words shared between them, just silence.
M’kor Chayeinu, Source of our lives, we stand together before You.
We stand in fear of a world that appears at times to be harsh and unkind. We tremble at uncertainty as to what the future may bring. And yet,
We are thankful for health, for family, and for friends.