The years quicken and my faith grows ever distant. This past year I lost another loved one for no reason. But my sister-in-law brought home a siddur from shul, and I find myself deeply moved:
“Most of us prefer to deny the unruliness of our fragility. But the facts on this list in Unetanah Tokef are inescapable: some will get sick; some will be born; there will be deaths by hunger and in wars. The liturgy begs us to pay attention to these plain facts. And we all know that if we haven’t yet suffered an unbearable loss, one year, such a grief will permanently scar our hearts, or we will suffer yet another death that we cannot bear. We hope that we will live to see another year, but we know that without a doubt, certainly, definitely, and absolutely, a year will sure come that will break the pattern. That destiny is mysterious in its details, but death is our destiny, the fate of every person we know and love. everyone dies, somehow and some time.
“We are not praying to be spared an ending in death. We are not even asking that death be postponed. Rather, after reminding ourselves relentlessly of the many ways that lie might end, we tell ourselves that the way to cope with ultimate vulnerability is through t’shuvah, t’fillah, and tz’dakah. Our goal is not security, but a life of meaning that recognizes our vulnerability but rises beyond it.”
No matter how distant I feel from the service, Ashamnu has always been able to stay close to my heart. Who among us can’t relate to this confession, or not be struck how little the human condition has changed over the thousands of years since this was written?
We abuse, we betray, we are cruel, we destroy, we embitter, we falsify, we gossip, we hate, we insult, we jeer, we kill, we lie, we mock, we neglect, we oppress, we perfert, we quarrel, we rebel, we steal, we transgress, we are unkind, we are violent, we are wicket, we are extremists, we yearn to do evil, we are zealous for bad causes.
May we all be blessed with a peaceful year. Shana Tova.