A great teacher Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said; “In reverence suffering, and humility we discover our existence and find the bridge that leads from existence to God.”
It appears that our community has had the opportunity over the last two weeks to experience a dose of all these characteristics. We have been preoccupied whether it was with our own situation or with someone else’s condition that we care about. Did we take some time to contemplate what existence means and how our survival creates a bridge to gratitude and thanksgiving to the Source of Life itself?
Yet there is another bridge we walk over this morning. It is a bridge towards memory of our loved ones who have passed away this year and in years gone by.Many over the last week missed not reciting Yizkor for this Yom Kippur. There are certain prayers and musical settings of the liturgy from the High Holy Days services that become the defining moments in which we all resonate with and look forward to reciting and hearing.For those of us who could not attend Yom Kippur somewhere else surely we missed not hearing the Kol Nidrei, Avinu Malkeinu, Yizkor, the confessions of transgressions and other cherished music and prayers.
That time has since passed and we are on our way to rebuilding our homes and even our spiritual selves. Because this is the time for Sukkoth, we already bid farewell to Yom Kippur. Yet, the tradition allows us a fortuitous opportunity to recover something we lost a week ago. The end of Sukkoth allows to hold a yizkor service on the 8th day. In fact we sponsor Yizkor services not only on the 8th day of Sukkoth but also on the 8th day of Passover and the 2nd day of Shavuot. Jewish law and custom prescribe the observance of the eighth day in Sukkoth as a Yom Tov in the Diaspora and as an occasion to hold a Yizkor Memorial service.
Now that we are, for the most part , returned to our homes we may also return to the memory of our loved ones. We are this morning combining the feeling of Yom kippur yizkor and grafting it onto the Yizkor we traditionally recite at the end of Sukkot. It is our hope to replenish our memories with the loved ones whose names would have been recited from our Yizkor on Yom Kippur itself. We are pleased to provide you with the Yizkor book.
The end of Sukkoth, unlike the Day of Atonement, concludes a holy and joyous harvest festival. Now we call to mind our precious loved ones and invoke their memories within the community. We remember our beloved parents and relatives including our spouses, siblings, children, grandchildren, and cherished friends. We intone the memories of our mentors, teachers and national leaders. Let us not forget those who gave their lives serving and defending the United States of America and the martyrs of our people who over the many centuries gave their lives for kiddush hashem,the sanctification of the Divine Name.
In the book of Proverbs we read, “ner adonai, nishmat adam. The spirit within is the lamp of God Eternal” (Proverbs 20:2). We need that light to guide us over the bridge towards the past, towards the memories of loved ones we come to honor today. These memories have been patiently waiting for us to cross over the bridge and greet them, touch them with our prayers, see them with the light of a broken heart or a wistful mind hearing their voices or feeling their hands upon us. With Yizkor can we draw the connection between our existence to our memories and tie them together with the spirit of the Eternal One?
I conclude with this prayer from our new Mahzor Mishkan HaNefesh
At birth, a miracle:
You light the spark in every human soul.
Emerging into light, we breathe it in-
the n’shamah, Your sacred gift of life.
And every day, every breath
comes to us as a miracle.
The light within us-unique and precious,
is with us always, while we live.
when breath has ceased and life has gone;
the n’shamah returns to You.
And the spark that lived inside the ones we love,
unique and precious, beautiful and good,
is theirs no more.
Their light is ours; their radiance now turns in us
the eternal flame of memory.
So we light candles, to keep our love alive,
to bring their light into the world,
A light unique and precious,
ours to treasure, while we live;
A ner timid that lights our days
and gives us strength to journey through the nights.
Dear friends we journey today over the bridge of memory to capture what is still ours.
Hold onto these memories and do not forget them. Cherish them and the light of their memories will warm us in our days and our nights.