Yom Kippur 5772: "Avodah"
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
The work I was trained for, well it had me quite scared.
My family, my People, all watched me prepare
for this one special place, for this one special time,
for the most special Word from one lonely voice – mine.
A crimson red sash, round my body they'd tie,
for fear that I'd fail at my task… that I'd die…
I imagine they'd all be alarmed, rightly so,
since the answer to all of our prayers could be "No."
But I don't think of that… put it out of my mind!
I feel eyes upon me – all this hope…
…and it's time.
All those months of rehearsing to say the Great Name
on behalf of us all, we whose hearts are aflame.
There are sacrifices, ointments, and rules to recite,
each one so intense, overflowing with Light…
And I am the vessel? I fear I might break.
How much of the sacred can one person take?
I'll try, I'll confess, after placing my hands,
and a knife on a sheep, though I don't understand.
But that's not what's important – it's beyond knowing why.
I accept that the way to become is to try.
So I stand here in white, and I pour out my soul,
as I beg for forgiveness, for my family, for all
of my People.
I bow. And I fall. I exclaim
the impossible Sound of the Holiest Name,
through tears running freely I hear a great Shout -
The people are singing! I turn all about,
and I stumble around the grand courtyard and cry
as I shake with salvation and I look to the sky.
It's all just a blur but it's holy and pure.
Nothing is certain but I'm quietly sure
that the Heavens are glad we are here. We're alive!
We know that we matter. We know we've survived
a difficult year, as each one is in turn.
This day calls us close to examine and learn
that our time may be short and there's much to be done.
And perhaps there are days when what matters is one.
And while this time the voice that was needed was mine,
Perhaps the next time that one voice will be yours.
The challenge that day is to walk through your doors.
Though the task you must do might feel awkward and strange,
the words and the deeds stretching past comfort range.
But each has a purpose, and I share, for I've learned
that the Mystery can only be pierced when you yearn.
I'm sure that one day these strange rites will have faded.
That's the way human souls have evolved – and evaded
the scariest parts of this world we all share:
We pretend that our fears are illusions, not there.
That all we need do is think hard and we'll see,
some sense, all is right, we've achieved clarity.
But I know now that's not how the world really turns,
And my job every year is to simply return.
Return to the place, at that hour, for this rite.
To put myself there in the breach in plain sight.
So come. Hold my hand.
Stand with me. Do your part.
Close your eyes. For to dream
all you need is your heart.
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