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Why We Will Do Kol Nidre in a Cemetery this Year

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At sundown on Wednesday, I’m envisioning a whole group of us gathering in a solemn garden of eternity.

The post Why We Will Do Kol Nidre in a Cemetery this Year appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Floods. Earthquake. Hurricanes. Political unrest. Indeterminant human rights. Emerging Cold War. Churning Hot War. Incipient Civil War. Political Division. Pandemic. TV news torques our souls like a vice grip. News alerts startle like electric shock treatments declaring the dead and hospitalized throughout our days. And as the lockdowns recede, we can see another in the distance, not as an oasis of Netflix binging, but a silo of solitude and isolation, further rending the garment of our nation.

Welcome to 5782.

Each Yom Kippur, Judaism offers ritual space in time to reflect and refine our spiritual acumen. Its practice is not for the faint of heart. The Yom Kippur liturgy includes graphic descriptions of physical pain, and demands that we face our own mortality, all while refraining from any activity that cares for our body outside of breath. Our attention turns to connectivity: our actions matter, and our transgressions impact the normal functions of the universe.

In preparation for our observance, we cleanse our bodies as we would cleanse the bodies of the dead and enter into a 25-hour meditation of prayer, song, chanting, sitting and standing. Our objective is beyond contrition to an eschatological correction, as we pull back the curtain between the living and the dead. We remember their lives as we face our own.

This year, Yom Kippur, an ancient technology that leads us through an annual near-death experience, must be renewed. As humanity seems brought to its knees with moral dilemmas played out in real time on the world stage, this Yom Kippur is more real than ever, as being in the presence of another praying alongside us could possibly be a death sentence. And as some shuls pivot from live services back to Zoom or at least outdoors, we must ask: where can we do Kol Nidre in a space that will enhance and underscore our times? What environment can ensure that any outdoor experience will carry us through our liturgical one and allow us to be social distanced and safe?

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I asked this question this year, and a voice from beyond returned my query: a cemetery, it whispered.

At sundown on Wednesday, I’m envisioning a whole group of us gathering in a solemn garden of eternity. The “funeral” we will experience is not for a friend or family member, but metaphorically for ourselves.

At sundown on Wednesday, I’m envisioning a whole group of us gathering in a solemn garden of eternity. The “funeral” we will experience is not for a friend or family member, but metaphorically for ourselves. A cellist will play the haunting melody of our tradition. The Kol Nidre service will be our transportation vehicle to the beyond, the liturgy will be our lifeline. Each person will be given a white sheet to wrap themselves in, find a grave that calls to them, and lie down. The hope is that we will internalize the deepest dimension of the deepest Jewish moment of the year.

With those who have passed before us buried beneath our feet and their headstones… the mystery of mortality will surround us and call to us to awaken to this beautiful gift called life.

Yom Kippur is a near death experience where the world of actions and eternity meet. We pull back the curtain between ourselves and the world to come and dwell in liminal space as the day turns to night and day and then night again. The liturgy demands that we ask ourselves: will I merit another year? With those who have passed before us buried beneath our feet and their headstones, sometimes overgrown and forgotten, before our eyes, the mystery of mortality will surround us and call to us with the wisdom of what those 6-feet under know: Awaken to this beautiful gift called life. Turn and Return. For one day, in the not-too-distant future, all of us will be pulled, like a hair from milk, and we will begin our final journey home to our eternal resting place.

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Open Temple’s Yom Kippur Urban Retreat begins its 25- hour observance on Wednesday night at a cemetery on the westside. For more information, please go to www.opentemple.org

The post Why We Will Do Kol Nidre in a Cemetery this Year appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/opinion/340501/why-we-will-do-kol-nidre-in-a-cemetery-this-year/

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