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Nothing Goes Away But Us

10/03/2019 06:52:39 AM


On Yom Kippur, we will be immersed in that idea.  Not because this year, Shma Koleinu is doing something new and different.  It’s not this year’s “Yom Kippur theme.”  It is THE THEME of Yom Kippur.  And in this moment, I really want to encourage you not to call it, “Yum Kipper.”   For a fast day, who really wants to wish each other a hearty and delicious meal of herring!?  No, what is almost upon is “YOAM KEY-POOH-ER.”  I know, it’s not a pretty looking word in the translit, but it’s not meant to be a “pretty” day.  Its…

יוֹם כִּפּוּר

(Yoam Key-Pooh-er)

Remember the great classic rock band, Kansas?  Their “take” on Yom Kippur is spot on!     

“I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind.”

This is it!  For one day a year, we gather and we fast from food, drink, and physical pleasure, because we “flirt” with the Angel of Death, because all we are, all we think and all we do, is eventually dust in the wind.  Not in a morose pursuit or even in a fatalistic one but just in the most honest and vulnerable of ways, we “marinate” in these juices.  We try to even not wear leather, in the effort to be that much more cognizant of not benefiting, this one day, from the death of another living being. 

And yes, these thoughts might initially feel depressing.  But if we look at them in another light, which we must, they help to form a most inspiring construct for how to live a life of meaning and purpose.  I love this quote by author and computer programmer, Larry Wall:

“You can’t change the past. You can’t even change the future, in the sense that you can only change the present one moment at a time, stubbornly, until the future unwinds itself into the stories of our lives.”

Yom Kippur is about throwing down the gauntlet against our vain pursuits of immortality. None of us will be here forever.  For every one of us, life amounts only to the connections we make along the way. We cannot cheat death, despite our secular culture’s fantasy to the contrary.   Yom Kippur is here to remind us that it is precisely our impending end that should prompt us to offer up our best, most vulnerable selves, in the service of something greater than we. 

I guess what I am saying and what I want you to hear is this:

Give yourself Yom Kippur this year.  Give yourself the evening and the day, I mean the whole dang thing.  There is literally nothing more important.  I don’t care if you don’t listen to a word I say, or that Hannah sings, or anyone else offers up from our bima.  But come and give yourself the ENTIRE day.  Sit, read the prayer book, sing if you’re inspired to, and pray.  Pray like your life depends on it.  Because it does.

Not because you’re going to change your “exit strategy” – that is and will always be out of your hands.  But because Yom Kippur works:

It will inspire you to take notice,

to strive for more humility

and to not get lost in your ego,

to keep your word much more often, on even the smallest of promises and

to remind yourself…

that love is a verb (as Rabbi Sheinkopf reminded us so beautifully on Rosh Hashanah),

that forgiveness is about letting others and yourself off the hook

that someday you won’t be here and neither will anyone you know

that the only “logical” response to the fact of having been created is to connect with others along the same vibe

that you deserve so much better than you allow yourself UNLESS you allow and presume for yourself too much (and then you know what is required)

that in every argument, there is history

in every artwork, there is heartache

in every regret, there is a choice

and in every certainty worth its muster, there is a kernel of doubt.


Give yourself the day of Yom Kippur and let go of the silly excuses for why you usually don’t.


All my love, Rabbi Scott


Wed, June 3 2020 11 Sivan 5780