September 21, 2015 admin

An unsown land

Yesterday we held our memorial service at the cemetery. It’s a tribute to all the dead of our community. It is rooted in the tradition that before Rosh Hashanah or in the days preceding Yom Kippur, one visits the graves to remember those we love, to entreat them to entreat for us, and to open and humble our own hearts as we reconsider our life’s purpose in the shadow of our mortality. It’s a simple practice and it’s moving.
After our prayers we each went to visit those we love then wandered among the gravestones of those who were once part of our congregation. They remain so too, the roots of our community, from whose devotion we still draw for our spiritual growth.
As one gets older one hopefully has more and more friends among the living; one certainly has among the dead. ‘There are so many here now,’ someone said to me as we passed each other between the rows. There are so very many whom I recall with much affection, and for whose parents, partners, brothers, sisters, children my heart aches when I read the brief words on the stones which point to an encompassable and unfathomable love: beloved grandfather, my darling child, beloved spouse.
Of all the many words in the voluminous liturgy it is those of Jeremiah which stir me most in this regard:  ‘Zacharti lach hesed ne’urayich – I remember unto you the faithfulness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed me through the desert, an unsown land’. Zacharti lach – we remember and cherish you; and there still burns in our heart the love which was given us by those whose bodies are now covered by the earth and the grass and the sky.
People sometimes ask me after they have lost a loved one: ‘Where is she now?’ Part of that question – ‘Is there life after death?’ ‘What happens to the soul?’ – can only be responded to with the conjectures of the theologians. But there is another part concerning which the truth is revealed to us and we do know the answer. The love does not end; love is not in its totality susceptible to death.
Of course, we miss the presence, the phone-calls, the texts, the voice, the touch, the embrace. There are many wounds to which there is no healing. Human life demands much endurance. Neither the shivah nor the year of mourning obliterate the pain. But the love does not undergo annihilation. Not always, but somehow and some of the time, it finds a voice with which to speak from beyond death, guiding us, supporting us, saying: ‘Don’t close your heart; my love is with you still inside your spirit. It is there in your very breath, and in your life’.
On Yom Kippur we stand before God as a community of the living and the dead. As the latter composed the words and melodies which we sing for our inspiration and study for their wisdom, so may their love sustain us, comfort us, humbles us and direct us towards living before God, each other and all life with great mercy and compassion.

Get in touch...