Foriegn hymns churn my soul

I sat in a room with a hundred strangers for Yitzkor (Memorial) service, and tears streamed down my face,

I dabbed my eyes as fast as I could with my tissues.  I make a point to remember my tissues every year.

Yom Kippur is not a “nice” holiday.  It is the day all Jews remember the dead, atone for their sins, and pray for forgiveness.  Most Jews fast for the day, and by 4pm, we are collectively famished for a bagel, lox and tunafish, cranky and sad.

But I digress.

This year I was in Cooper Union Great Hall in downtown NYC.  It was downstairs in this “great hall”, looked like  a theater space with about 400 seats in a half circle.  The stage was as one should look like on the High Holy Days–two large flower arrangements, the wooden Ark holding the temples 3 torahs, 2 wooden podiums for the cantors (the singer (usually 1, I was treated to 2!) , a wider podium to read the torah on, and a beautiful copper/green stand for the Rabbi, with a burgandy velvet cover with gold braided rope to read from the Gates of Repentance (the bible).

The Rabbi was a woman and there were 2 Cantors.  There was a piano and a guitar.  The room was filled with music, and the cantors were very good.

This was the first time I had heard Sephardic Jewish songs, and it stirred me, deep within the pit of my fasting stomach.

“It sounds like the desert songs.” I thought.  Desert songs?  Maybe my mind was in the desert, we were reading about when Moses received the 10 commandments.  This song, which I never  heard before, or even knew what words they were singing, invoked a deep notion that I knew this song, deep within me.  It felt like a familiar experience, with a familiar tone, the familiar story.

It churned my soul.

Have you ever felt that?  I’d love to know – leave a comment.

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