Saturday was the last day of Passover. I am still trying to figure out my Jewish identity. I am not exactly a literal interpretation of the Bible kind of guy. But I love the culture and especially the community, and I do believe it is a valid way of connecting to the Divine. As a kid I never understood the point of going to a synagogue or church or whatever, to hear G-d. G-d can hear me no matter where I am, I would arrogantly say. I am not sure when it happened, maybe when we first started going to shul regularly and becoming more observant on Shabbat. But I finally understood the reason for davening/praying with a community. It was not to help G-d hear us, but to help US hear G-d. There are a lot of holes in my Jewish education, I can’t read hebrew and I know only a few words. But when I pray in shul with a group of people, all trying to connect to G-d, it s almost like meditation, you can feel the energy of it, and it is beautiful.
But as I said there are major gaps in my Jewish education. Yizkor was one of them. Yizkor is prayer recited 4 times a year, one in which you are to remember and connect with a passed close relative. I heard the term before and I knew it was said 4 times a year, but had absolutely no idea what it was. We normally all go to Shul as a family. But on Saturday Melissa had a dear friend in town who she hadn’t seen in forever, and I’m not sure had even met our boys. So the plan was for Melissa to go pick him up, take the kids, and spend time together when I was at Shul. When I got home from Shul she would drop the boys off with me and she could have time to catch up with her old friend. I was tired, after a really long and stressful work week. I did have Thursday off, but I paid for it on Friday. Got to love how vacation and sick days work when you are exempt. If you look at the hours I put in that week, I really didn’t use any time off, even though I wasn’t there on Thursday. But this post isn’t about HR. So Saturday morning I just wasn’t motivated to rush to Shul. Melissa kept reminding me that I should get there for Yizkor, and I knew enough to know it was an important prayer only said a few times a year, but I just wasn’t that worried about it. So I slept in a bit and took my time drinking my coffee. Then I went for an 8 mile run. The run was a bit slow for me. I had something on my mind, but hadn’t really processed it until this morning. So I got home and took a nice long hot shower. Got dressed and strolled to shul.
When I got there, I noticed all of the memorial lights (including the one for my mom) was turned on. Typically they are only on during the month of their passing. I figured it had something to do with passover and I made a mental note to ask someone about it at a more appropriate time. So anyway I did get their in time for Yizkor. Before he started the prayer, the Rabbi started talking about how now was the time to think of whoever it is that you lost. Maybe say something to them that you always wanted to say. That was when I understood just what Yizkor was, and that I had a small tear in one eye. I took a moment and pictured my mom, and I did say something, several things in fact that I had always wanted to say. As I said, I can’t read Hebrew so I read the English on the left page. And for a movement I felt connected to G-d, my mom and several other passed relatives. It was one of the most beautiful experinces I have had in Shul. I went up to the Rabbi afterwards and explained to him that up until now I know idea what Yizkor was, and how moved I was by what he had said. I don’t live in a community where a lack on knowledge is *typically* looked upon with judgement and Rabbi Antine was nothing but gracious and supportive.
I am grateful I got there for Yizkor and G-d willing I will never miss it again.