Can you believe it?
Rosh HaShana services are over?
Every year we can’t help but notice how much faster the pages of a calendar turns. When we look back, the years seem like months; months seem like days; days seem like hours; and hours seem like minutes. However, looking forward, minutes can seem like an eternity if we are experiencing unbearable pain, and even longer if we are forced to watch a loved one suffer. We know how immobilized we can feel when it comes to changing the future.
The liturgy of Rosh Hashana, especially the additional “musaf” service, is one of the most comforting in reminding us that we are never alone with our human dramas.
The Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofrot prayers are like a symphony, perfectly composed, and equally divided into three separate unifying movements.
We recognize God as our King;
We remember His Direct intercession into our history. We reaffirm the historical and personal belief that He listens and cares for us; and recall the numerous Biblical events where the shofar proclaims God’s presence and protection for his people….
Perhaps that is why our High Holy Day Liturgy centers around the musical and theological jewel, around the Unitaneh Tokef… the B’ Rosh Hashanah Prayer.
On the Second Day of Rosh HaShana I invited a ten year old, Shira Pomerantz, with an angelic voice to join musically and spiritually with our heavenly choir to “open the gates” of all our hearts.
Our esteemed choir director, Herb Dimmock, devoted many long hours to compose a choral arrangement to match Shira’s voice.
Shira rehearsed with the choir as can be viewed and enjoyed on YouTube thanks to her doting father, Steve.
(In case you have not seen it)
Many of you since Rosh Hashana have remarked to me how beautiful Shira’s voice is and what prompted me to ask her to chant the B’rosh Hashana and not another prayer.
My brother Cantor Josh in Rockville has invited his son, Ari, since he was ten years old, to join him for the singing of B’rosh HaShana.
Cantor Meir Finkelstein, the composer of the haunting melody introduced it to the world by singing it on a recording with his young daughter.
The day I heard Shira’s voice (when she was even younger!) my mind was made up that when she turned 10 she was going to bring great sustainable comfort to the Chizuk Amuno Congregation with the same warmth and spirit her mother, Leslie, brings to congregations when she leads them in prayer.
I too was moved by Shira’s voice. I try not to look out at the congregation so as to be attentive to every word in the Machzor.
While Shira was singing I was able to look out and my eyes revealed the empty seats in the Sanctuary on the Second Day of Rosh HaShanah which “called out” to me.
I envisioned the staring eyes of the former congregants who used to sit there looking contemplatively at something hidden to the rest of the congregation sitting near them.
I thought about cherished members I said goodbye too at their funerals this past year or a member and their entire families some of whom I trained for B’nai Mitzvah who left without exchanging goodbyes.
Now that we are older and have more experiences with life’s realities, we have come to accept the fact that we have lost and will continue to lose. That is part of the natural order of things.
Having studied this prayer over the years, I found myself becoming even more aware of what we GAIN by surviving.
We feel it when we don’t give into distractions. When we don’t take something for granted and really focus on the inner meaning of what is occurring around us, it can focus our very existence.
Focusing, during praying, is becoming a lost art form. It is the key that opens the lock to prayer throughout the year and especially on the days of Awe.
Without focusing your thoughts and hearts on the words with the same intensity, similar to the piercing eyes and steady hands of a surgeon, there is the risk of mumbling familiar words…
For Yom Kippur 5772:
May our fast, slow us down, and help us hold fast to it, our praying and our love for our God.
Thank you Shira for living up to the meaning of the name your parents “coincidentally” picked for you.