We all mourn in different ways and for all different types of people. Our tradition does not limit our ability to mourn, rather encourages us all to find ways to deal with death, how we need to deal with death. And for each of us and with each loss, we do not need an agenda or reason to cry. We should not need to explain ourselves. Mourning is as controllable as the death itself and all are deserving of the time to heal.
We asked around to some of our favorite rabbis in the Twin Cities to see if they’d be willing to let us publish one of their sermons from the High Holidays 5774. We got a resounding “Yes” from those that have so far replied.
40 years ago today on the Hebrew Calendar, on the 10th of Tishrei, saw the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War instigated against Israel by Syria and Egypt. This was an event that certainly defined an era for Jews everywhere. Do you remember where you were when you heard that the war had broken out? I know exactly where I was. I was in utero. 40 years ago today, I was 55 days from being born. And the Jewish world that I was born into was a different world because of that war. Confidence was lost. The world was turned upside down again and Israel was forced to look at things in a different way.
The ancient wisdom of the Talmud teaches, rachmana liba bai, “God desires what’s inside the heart.” The name of our new mahzor, Lev Shalem, means a full heart. It suggests both the power and irony of the High Holy Day prayerbook. God’s name fills the pages, but the holidays are not really about the words between our hands. They are about the words of the heart, the relationships face-to-face that form and tear and need mending. The formal text can only take us so far.
This terrible war convinced the Arab world that they could not defeat Israel by conventional means. This, of course, led to the many waves of terror attacks that Israel essentially put an end to in 2004, thank God. But now, our biggest threat, more than Iran, more than Syria, more than internal strife, more than inequality and chauvinism and Jewish extremism, is the global delegitimization campaign against Israel—we’ve shifted back to the question of Israel’s legitimacy.
Trying to inspire people with fear often leads to indifference and indifference is what makes a Jew stop being a Jew.