Get ready for the soapbox!
As many of you may know, today is Yom Kippur. A day when Jews fast and pray for atonement, but we also pray for health and well being in the coming year. For a good year, a sweet year, for our congregation to have a good year, for peace in Israel, and other things.
But Yom Kippur is not just about the future and the coming year, it is also about the past. There is a part of the service called Yizkor which is where we say memorial prayers. We say prayers in rememberence for parents, siblings, children, and anyone else who has passed away in our lives.We also say a prayer for the souls of those murdered during the Holocaust and end with a prayer for all of the dead. We then recite Psalm 23, followed by the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Psalm 23 is one of those interesting crossover’s between Judaism and Christianity (and yes I know there’s a lot more than this Psalm, but its probably the most famous Psalm that both use). I’ve heard it in Christian services (and it’s actually pretty prevalent in those ghost shows on TV) and yet Jews recite it as well. We also attribute it to King David.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff-they comfort me.
You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for length of days.
:יְהֹוָה רֹעִי לֹא אֶחְסָר
:בִּנְאוֹת דֶּשֶׁא יַרְבִּיצֵנִי עַל מֵי מְנֻחוֹת יְנַהֲלֵנִי
:נַפְשִׁי יְשׁוֹבֵב יַנְחֵנִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי צֶדֶק לְמַעַן שְׁמוֹ
: גַּם כִּי אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת לֹא אִירָא רָע כִּי אַתָּה עִמָּדִי שִׁבְטְךָ וּמִשְׁעַנְתֶּךָ הֵמָּה יְנַחֲמֻנִי
:תַּעֲרֹךְ לְפָנַי | שֻׁלְחָן נֶגֶד צֹרְרָי דִּשַּׁנְתָּ בַשֶּׁמֶן רֹאשִׁי כּוֹסִי רְוָיָה
.אַךְ טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי כָּל יְמֵי חַיָּי וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית יְהֹוָה לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים
I know that many of you have probably read it or heard it before, but I thought it would be interesting to include the original Hebrew (even if you can’t read it). Which, by the way, do you have any idea how difficult it is to get Hebrew to play nice in a text editor? Most of the problems come from the fact that it’s read right to left instead of left to right like English and the editor doesn’t quite know what to do with text that goes a different way from what it was programmed.
Yom Kippur is a more solemn holiday than Rosh Hashanah, but I suppose that’s to be expected, given the topic and theme of the days prayers.
I mentioned reading a book about the history of the Siddur on Rosh Hashanah, and I finished that book today. It was very interesting to read about how things changed with the different movements that grew here in America. Those movements being Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist Judaism. I was raised Conservative which is often seen as the middle ground between the Reform and the Orthodox movements. Which, by the way, did you know that the modern Reform movement here in the US was started with a first fight in a synagogue in 1850 in Albany, NY when a rabbi was dismissed from his post but showed up at Rosh Hashanah services anyways? It’s a very interesting story.
Of course, services aren’t over for the day yet. We are heading back for the concluding services at 4:45 this afternoon. This is when, if it wasn’t Shabbat, we’d blow the Shofar. Now, because it’s Shabbat, there will be no Shofar blowing. But we will still pray and beg G-d to seal us in the book of life. The closing services are called Neilah which means “closing the gate”. And a closing gate is exactly what we’re asked to envision. On Rosh Hashnah the gates of heaven are opened so that G-d can receive our prayers, and as Yom Kippur comes to an end, while we perform the Neilah services, the gates are slowly swinging closed. The entire service is supposed to have a sense of urgency to it, and the ark doors (the place where we keep our Torah scrolls) are left open the entire time to signify that the gates of heaven are still open. Then, at the end, we say the Sh’ma prayer and then praise G-d and it’s over. The closing of the ark (if it wasn’t Shabbat) would be accompanied by a Shofar blast.
You may not have noticed in the little bit of text I’ve posted, but Jews have a tradition of praying in the plural. We (see, there’s that plural) say, well ‘we’, and ‘our’, and ‘us’, and any other plural I’m not thinking of right now. When Jews pray, we pray for all Jews, everywhere. It’s possibly one of the reasons we’ve survived as a community for so long. We look after one another and a sense of community is encouraged through that communal and plural prayer.
Sorry for the wall of text again, I tend to blather on a bit when I get philosophical. I hope at least that it’s been educational!
FO post coming this week for that cowl, and hopefully a pair of socks!