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.