High Holidays Highlights 2008

 

Bob Jaffe’s Aliyahs for the Yom Kippur Torah Service: Giving Teshuva for Ourselves and for Others – Everlasting Connection to Life Itself

 

 

FIRST ALIYAH:

 

WE OBSERVE YOM KIPPUR TODAY, BY GOING DEEP WITHIN OURSELVES, BY ACCESSING OUR TEARS, OUR GRIEF, AND OUR MISTAKES – WITHOUT THE HIGH PRIEST, WITHOUT ANIMAL SACRIFICES, WITHOUT A TEMPLE, WITHOUT THE NEED FOR ABSOLUTE ORDER. WE ARE IT…WE FACE GOD AND OURSELVES WITHOUT INTERMEDIARIES; YET WE HAVE THE SAME ISSUES OF BROKENNESS AS OUR FORBEARS DID THREE THOUSAND YEARS AGO – OUR OWN CASUALTIES OF LIFE.

IT IS A QUANTUM LEAP OF FAITH WE TAKE BY CONNECTING WITH OURSELVES AND WITH OTHERS, AND GIVING BACK TO OURSELVES OUR OWN LIFE – AND HOW DEEPLY LIFEGIVING OUR TESHUVA IS TO OTHERS AND TO OURSELVES. WE RECALL THE STORY OF JUDAH AND JOSEPH:

JUDAH, IN HIS HATRED AND JEALOUSY TOWARDS JOSEPH AND HIS FATHER JACOB, DIRECTS THE SALE OF JOSEPH INTO SLAVERY, A SLAVE HEADED FOR THE DUNGEONS OF EGYPT. MIRACULOUSLY, JOSEPH ASCENDS FROM THE DEPTHS, AND BECOMES THE VICEROY OF EGYPT. WHILE A VICEROY IN FULL POWER, JOSEPH LOSES HIS IDENTITY AS AN ISRAELITE, A JEW. WHEN HE MEETS HIS BROTHERS, LATER IN THE STORY. HE IS UNRECOGNIZABLE BY THEM…WITHOUT ANY DISGUISE, HE IS SIMPLY INVISIBLE; WITHOUT IDENTITY.

JUDAH, IN THE MEANWHILE, HAS UNDERGONE A SERIES OF HEARTBREAKING LOSSES – HIS TWO OLDER SONS AND HIS WIFE. THROUGH HIS LOSSES, JUDAH IS ABLE TO UNDERSTAND AND FEEL THE HEARTBREAK OF HIS FATHER, JACOB, OVER THE LOSS OF JOSEPH AND THE NOW- LOOMING LOSS OF BENJAMIN, THE REMAINING SON. RATHER THAN SEE JACOB SUFFER ANY FURTHER, JUDAH OFFERS TO BECOME THE SLAVE OF JOSEPH; A COMPLETE TURNABOUT OF ROLES AND IDENTITIES….JUDAH BEGS JOSEPH FOR COMPASSION FOR HIS FATHER.

IT IS AT THIS POINT THAT JOSEPH CAN RECONNECT WITH HIMSELF AND WITH HIS BROTHERS. FEELING THE COMPASSION OF JUDAH TOWARDS JACOB, JOSEPH BEGINS TO WEEP, TO CRY, TO RETURN TO HIS FULL LIFE AND IDENTITY AS JOSEPH THE LOST BROTHER, JOSEPH THE JEW, JOSEPH THE SON OF HIS BELOVED FATHER. JOSEPH IS RETURNED TO HIS LIFE, AND RECONNECTS TO LIFE ITSELF.

JUDAH, “SEEING” JOSEPH COMING BACK TO LIFE, CAN RECONNECT TO HIS OWN LIFE, FREE OF HATRED AND JEALOUSY OF HIS FATHER AND JOSEPH. JUDAH BREATHES FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HIS LIFE, HE BECOMES A LIVING SOUL, COMPLETED. THIS IS THE RETURN, THE TESHUVA WHICH WE ALL PRAY FOR. THE LIFE – VING RETURN AND COMPLETION, FOR OURSELVES AND FOR EACH OTHER. MAMESH, IT GOES BACK IN TIME, TO HEAL THE WOUNDS OF THIS WHOLE FAMILY – JACOB AND HIS TWO WIVES, AND THE COMPETITION AMONG HIS SONS FOR RECOGNITION, AND THE FIGHT AMONG THEM.

WE GO TO THE BIMAH THIS DAY OF YOM KIPPUR, CALLED TO THE TORAH TO OFFER OUR PRAYERS OF FORGIVENESS AND SEEKING LIFE – VING TESHUVA FOR OURSELVES AND FOR OTHERS…EVERLASTING CONNECTION TO LIFE ITSELF. AND MAY WE BE HEALED.

 

SECOND ALIYAH:

 

AT THE END OF PARASHAH SHEMINI, AND AFTER THE DEATH OF NADAV AND ABIHU, WE ARE TOLD THAT AHARON GOES SILENT. THE VERB IS VAYIDOM….THE DICTIONARY ALSO TELLS US THAT THIS VERB HAS ANOTHER MEANING, A SECONDARY MEANING …AND THAT IT MEANS "TO WEEP," "TO CRY." SEEMINGLY,THEY ARE OPPOSITES.

BUT CAN WE SAY THAT AHARON WAS WEEPING SILENTLY, THAT HIS TEARS WERE HIDDEN, WERE INSIDE – SOCKED AWAY – WHICH SO OFTEN HAPPENS WHEN OUR GRIEF IS DELAYED OR DISRUPTED.

OUR GRIEF REMAINS OUTSIDE TIME UNTIL IT IS ACCESSED, AND THEN THE TEARS MAY FLOW….AS IF A ROCK WERE PULLED AWAY FROM THE OPENING OF A WELL, AS YAKOV DOES WHEN HE MEETS RACHEL, OR [WHEN] MOSES DOES WHEN HE MEETS ZIPPORAH.

WE ARE, OFTENTIMES, AWAKENED TO THE DEATH OF SOMEONE CLOSE, WHO HAS DIED MANY YEARS AGO, AND IT SIMPLY DID NOT REGISTER. OR, PERHAPS THAT PERSON DIED WITHOUT OUR FEELING BLESSED, OR WITHOUT OUR BEING ABLE TO SAY GOOD BYE. OR, TELLING THEM HOW MUCH WE LOVED THEM…. YOM KIPPUR IS A TIME FOR REFLECTION UPON DEATH, OUR DEATH, AND THE DEATH OF THOSE AROUND US.

WE CALL TO THE TORAH THOSE OF US WHO HAVE NEED TO ACCESS OUR TEARS OF GRIEF, PERHAPS TO SAY GOOD BYE TO A BELOVED WHO HAS DIED, OR TO GET THE BLESSING FOR WHICH THERE WAS NO TIME TO GIVE, OR PERHAPS TO ASK FOR OR GIVE FORGIVENESS. OR WHEN A CLOSE BELOVED DIES THERE IS A TEACHING FOR US THAT WE NEED TO REMEMBER. OR JUST SIMPLY TO SAY, “I LOVE YOU.”

AND WE CALL TO THE TORAH TODAY THOSE OF US WHO WERE TRAUMATIZED OR INJURED, AND THOSE INJURIES HAVE CLOSED US OFF FROM OURSELVES, FROM OTHERS. WE SEEK THE HEALING FLOW OF TEARS.

 

THIRD ALIYAH:

 

WE SEE AHARON REGAINING HIS VOICE, HIS VOICE TO MOURN AND GIVE ATONEMENT. WE ASK GOD TO GIVE US OUR OWN VOICE, A VOICE OF WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE ARE. AN AUTHENTIC VOICE THAT COMES OUT OF OUR AUTHENTIC DEPTH, OUR OWN UNIQUE SOUL, A VOICE THAT WILL SPEAK ELOQUENTLY OF OUR CONNECTION TO EACH OTHER….LIKE THE VOICE OF JUDAH WHEN HE DISCOVERS HIS OWN CAPACITY FOR COMPASSION TOWARDS JACOB. A VOICE THAT IS LIFE GIVING AND BRINGS FORTH LIFE.

WE ASK GOD TO INCREASE OUR CAPACITY TO HEAR THE VOICES OF OTHERS, TO LET OTHER VOICES INTO OUR LIVES. VOICES THAT ARE DIFFERENT FROM OURS, VOICES OF THE OTHER, TO ALLOW US TO ADD TO OUR OWN VOICES.

HELP US FIND OUR VOICE TO CRY OUT AGAINST INJUSTICE, AS OUR NATION LURCHES TOWARDS ANOTHER PRECIPICE; AND GIVE THE UNDERDOGS OF OUR SOCIETY THEIR VOICE. WE GO TO THE TORAH THIS DAY OF YOM KIPPUR, SEEKING OUR VOICE, AND TO JOIN OUR VOICE WITH THE VOICES OF OTHERS, EVERLASTING…

AMEN.