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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Yom Kippur: Candles in Every Place

Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam

'Before Yom Kippur, we light candles in every place—within synagogues, study halls, dark passages and on account of the infirm.' Rabbi Yosef Karo - Code of Jewish Law O.H. 310.3

The Day of Atonement is a day of introspection. The inner eye of critique is loosed upon the record of our deeds.  And the record is never good. The heart thunders:  ‘How have I wronged my fellowman!’ The lips whisper: ‘How have I wronged my Maker!’ Regret runs deep and swells like the sea.

But though it be a day devoted to reflection, and though we may be caught up in the tempestuous swirl of our own thoughts, Rabbi Yosef Karo reminds us that Yom Kippur is much more than that…it is a day not just for oneself, but for others as well.
Many, who rarely see the inside of a sanctuary, will come on Yom Kippur.  Of these, some will have difficulty seeing, hearing or following...and they’ll need light to find their way.  

So over the holiday, try to look up occasionally from one’s prayer book and search about you. To the left, there may be an unfamiliar face in want of reassurance. To the right, another searches aimlessly for the correct page. In the aisle, an elderly woman struggles to find her seat. By the entrance, a lone Jew stands for the first time in a sanctuary…afraid, but wanting to be drawn in.

There are many kinds of light that need kindling. Especially for Yom Kippur, we must light candles every place.
A Meaningful Fast.

A Poem: On the Eve of Yom Kippur

On the Eve of Yom Kippur

Autumn turns my thoughts to rain, to pebbled ice
To sins of late and sins of yore.
Each deed is but one brick of scarlet,
Together they make a wall of shame.

Exiled, I flee the wind
I hear not her voice drifting.
I hide within the trees
Yet my heart is wet with searching.
I want summer, quiet and still,
But the twisting road is always the better story.
They say surrender is winter white—
Like the Day of Atonement
Like Adam, on the day of his making
And later, his unmaking.
I stare at the sky, not white or grey,
The setting sun is the color of war.