To my friends and readers who are not Jewish: Today’s post is a call from my heart to both myself and my fellow Jews as we prepare to enter into the holiest day of the Jewish year, the Day of Atonement. I apologize if the message does not speak to you.
The Torah is about to end. Moses is standing on the precipice between life and death. He begins to recite a poem, or perhaps it is a song that he will sing to the Children of Israel. But although they are gathered, standing silently listening for his words, Moses does not speak directly to the people. He cries out
“Give ear, you heavens, and I will speak; and hear, you earth, the words of my mouth. My discourse shall drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as the small rain on the tender herb, as the showers upon the grass.” Deut 32:1-2
And here we stand, on the precipice between two years. Rosh Hashanah is behind us; Yom Kippur just days away. As the Day of Atonement looms before us, what song will we sing? How will we call out to each other, to God, to the heavens and earth?
The Atonement Day asks us to speak the language of truth. We crack open our hearts, we pour out our souls, we confess our wrongs and ask forgiveness.
We dress in white, like the shrouds in which we will be buried. We do not eat or drink. We do not dance, but instead sway to the plaintive strains of prayers rising like smoke in the wind, dissipating as they travel farther and farther.
Or perhaps our prayers are like Moses’ pouring down like rain, washing away dust and soot, watering the parched soil of our souls, allowing new sprouts to spring forth, fresh and green.
The choice is ours. The day belongs to each of us alone. Use it well.
When you look at the faces of those in prayer with you, remember that each is a reflection of the face of God. Including your own.
May your fasts be meaningful and your prayers be heartfelt. May the new year bring goodness to you and the world.