"There does not exist any vow, oath, pledge, promise, or intention. But there does exist pardon, forgiveness, and atonement." —from Kolaynu Santa Cruz's Rosh Hashanah service
I attended The School for The Work right after 9/11; an amazing time to spend 10 days immersed in The Work, not that any time there isn't equally amazing. It's just that this was one heck of a story to undo. We spent exactly one evening on it together, in session. The rest of the week we focused on the usual suspects: mother, father, boss, partner, children, money, health, and in my case, cat.
Yom Kippur also happened during that week. I spoke about it in the work room with my classmates, remarking that what we were doing at the school was remarkably like teshuva (turning), tefilah (sincere asking), and tzedakah (right action).
I'd asked to sing something in the room that I would have chanted for my deceased parents in the synagogue, had I been at home. These words are part of the Mourner's Kaddish, the prayer for the dead:
Oseh shalom bimromov, hu yaaseh shalom, aleynu v'al kol yisroel, ve'imroo omein.
The translation is: The One who makes peace in high holy places, may this One bring peace upon us, and upon all Israel (literal translation of Israel: one who struggles—that would be most of us); and let us say Amen.
I realized then that the essence of the High Holy Days, and of our practice of inquiry, was about peace; peace within, peace without, peace with Creation.
In the concluding Yom Kippur service, the congregation admits to all the sins that we have ever committed, knowing that forgiveness is at hand in the recognition. Is there any one of us who has never done these things, if only to ourselves?
"We have trespassed, we have been faithless, we have robbed, we have spoken basely, we have committed iniquity, we have wrought unrighteousness, we have been presumptuous, we have done violence, we have forged lies, we have counseled evil, we have spoken falsely, we have scoffed, we have revolted, we have blasphemed, we have been rebellious, we have acted perversely, we have transgressed, we have persecuted, we have been stiff-necked, we have done wickedly, we have corrupted ourselves, we have committed abomination, we have gone astray, and we have led astray."
Only in our awareness that we have been confused and mistaken can we come to clarity. Only in seeing that we are what we thought our enemies were can we make peace with them. Only in realizing the truth about our loved ones can we honor them in life or death; they turned out to be us. At-one-ment.
After I sang at the School that day—a day during which I had believed myself to be bagging the holiest of holy days in the Jewish calendar—Katie said to me, "You're doing Yom Kippur big-time!"
I have endeavored to do Yom Kippur big-time ever since.
Let all who struggle be peaceful at last, in this high holy place. Today, I am blessed to know how to find peace within: Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it's true? How do I react when I believe that thought? Who would I be without this thought? Turn the thought around.
God is good.
Happy new you.
©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.