Religious : : Thoughts from the Rabbi
This year in preparing for the High Holy Days I learned from my colleague Rabbi Naomi Levy, who taught what she learned from Prof. Tamar Frankel-that the words in our Machzor, our HHD prayer-book, that we recite during the Shofar service, Hayom Harat Olam, Today the world is born – are found in Jeremiah Chapter 20 verse 16 and the words mean something altogether different from how we use the phrase and idea during the High Holy Days. The meaning is not ìToday the world is born.î Not about possibilities and not about an unfolding future.
Rather Jeremiah uses the phrase to wish that he had not be born. When no one, not rulers, priests, or common folk, will listen to him, and Jeremiah knows from God that there is impending trouble ahead for Israel and yet the Israelites, our ancestors, will not repent and will not turn away from not meeting God’s expectations. Jeremiah uses the phrase to mean; may I be stillborn forever, may my mother be pregnant with me forever, may my mother’s womb be my grave.
Are we in a permanent state of un-living? Do we sleep-walk through our lives? Maybe the High Holy Days come to cause us to feel dis-comfort. Maybe the HHD come to make us see parts of ourselves we would rather not acknowledge.
Rabbi Levy taught about Ezekiel Chapter 36 verse 26 as two themes of Yom Kippur. God will give us a new heart and a new spirit; God will remove our heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. How could a heart of stone and a heart of flesh be together thought of as two themes?
If we think of Kol Nidre as releasing our vows, our bargaining with God all year, and saying how closed we’ve become, not open, not curious, not loving, almost having a heart of stone, and by releasing us from our failed bargains, our words of ìif God you’ll do this for me, then I’llÖ and we never did what we promised. – if we acknowledge our failures, then we may find again our heart of flesh.
On Yom Kippur, feeling our heart like stone without eating or drinking, or wearing fancy shoes, or having intimacy, we gain the courage to see what we have been running from, what we have been afraid of, what’s caused us to receive less love, to be less open to the joy of life and of living, then on Yom Kippur our heart of stone is replaced with a heart of flesh. We look inward and realize what we’ve been distanced from and we soften our hardness and find our soul’s light., our heart of flesh.
May you and those your love be written and sealed for a year of health and joy and success.
L’shana tova tikateivu v’tichataimu, Rabbi Dennis