Sunday, September 19, 2010


By this time, the day after Yom Kippur, we have all completed a thorough process of confession of sins-it seems as if there are no more sins we could conceive of at this point. Yet, I must confess one more thing; I never liked Yom Kippur! I enjoy my daily cups of coffee too much to withstand a day without them! Moreover, for over 40 years I conducted services and impatiently awaited the end of the day so that all its demands could be put behind me.
Yesterday it was totally different. I can't express how grateful I am for the experience of Yom Kippur at a synagogue called ROMEMU, at which I spent 24 glorious hours in a church setting-they can't afford a separate space yet, especially in Manhattan-during which time not a moment passed when I felt the discomfort of fasting. So elevating was the service with its rousing and heartfelt singing accompanied and inspired but never overpowered by the magical music of outstanding musicians , Rabbinic words that filled one's heart with hope and love, physical embraces of members that surrounded us with genuine expressions of sincerity and concern, and the many moments of meditative silence by which we could touch, even fleetingly, our deepest yearnings and desires. Unlike the conventional synagogue in which the hours drag on so slowly because of lengthy, mechanical and rote-like formulas of prayer , and the passive indifference of worshippers , completely unengaged, who have no focus for their hearts and their attention except for their growling stomachs and the growing parchness in their mouths, ROMEMU has created a holy community and a sacred space of honesty and acceptance in which tears of sadness and joy co-mingled into a fluid of renewed faith.
When the day ends in a conventional synagogue, it is not uncommon for throngs of people to make a mad dash to the doors at the very last gasp of the Tekiah Gedolah of the shofar, fleeing hunger and boredom at the same time. Last night, the final , crackling blast of the Shofar was greeted with exuberant singing and dancing, a celebration of hope for a reunited Jerusalem under the sovereignty of peace that continued for close to fifteen minutes. Then the spices were passed around filling the sanctuary with smells of renewed sweetness and pungent awakening, and the flicker of a Havdallah canadle danced toward the arched ceiling. Hundreds of fingers were raised toward its light, the light of the sacred being overshadowed by the darkness of the mundane and the ordinary; yet, holiness held on as the hundreds who remained in the sanctuary broke forth into another eruption of sacred energy exploding into joyful song and dance.Hunger and thirst were swallowed up in the soaring of the human spirit and the transformation was complete; at the closing heavenly gates this humble host of angels didn't "need" to eat; they did what angels do-they lifted their hearts in praise.
The day had passed like a flash; its light illumined at least one shadowy spot in everyone's soul .

PS I can't wait for next Yom Kippur.

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