Sunday, September 30, 2012

Yizkor and Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur was the third Yizkor I've recited for my mother. (For a broader view of Yizkor, I refer readers to the moving article in this week's Jewish Week by Jonathan Mark, which quotes from earlier posts from this blog as well as others. See http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new-york-news/season-yizkor)

I've always thought that the Yom Kippur Yizkor was the true Yizkor. It's the holiday when you're already stripped away of your defenses by lack of food and the intensity of the prayer service. You're already in the mindset of "who shall live and who shall die". The prayers are full are references to the transience of life, from dust we come and return. We wear the white kittel which to me symbolizes both our striving to be angelic and free from physicality yet hints of the burial shroud in which we (hopefully later rather than sooner) will be buried.

Once again I was shocked at the service, so meaningful yet so brief. I thought of my mother and how she had accepted, perhaps even embraced, her life's end, the dignity in which she lived her last days and the fearlessness she displayed in the face of death. As I said at her funeral, she defied the odds of a woman of 78's life expectancy with pancreatic cancer because maybe the angel of death was afraid to confront her. These feelings came and went seemingly in the blink of an eye and I was again caught up in the drama that is the Yom Kippur prayer service.


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