Three poems of teshuvah (a sermon for Yom Kippur morning)
Preparing for Sukkot 5772

Ten Days of Awe memories I don't want to lose

Drew with my parents on Shabbat Shuvah; gentle yoga on Yom Kippur.

1. Seeing my parents who had come all the way from south Texas (and also seeing Ethan!) beaming at me from the kahal as I led my first Rosh Hashanah services as a rabbi. Having them there was amazing: riches upon riches. And, of course, along with that come all of the other sweet memories of my parents' annual Rosh Hashanah visit: watching them enjoy Drew (and vice versa), Drew learning to say a shortened variant of my mother's chosen grandmother name, my father pushing Drew on the swings at a local playground...

2. Delivering the story of Chanah -- the haftarah for the first day of Rosh Hashanah -- without a script, drawing on the sacred storytelling skills I learned last summer with Magidah (storyteller) Devorah Zaslow at the ALEPH Kallah. I loved stepping out from behind the bimah, breaking the invisible plane which sometimes extends between the leader and the community. And I loved telling that familiar story in my own new way, leavened with humor and spiced with my own experience of pregnancy and motherhood.

3. Singing in harmony with my friend and colleague Shayndel Kahn at every opportunity.

4. Bringing some Renewal melodies, some Renewal practices, and a lot of Renewal joy to the community I serve.

5. Plunging into an ice-cold Vermont mountain stream before Yom Kippur and emerging with a whoop! (More here.)

6. Every moment of every amidah we enjoyed on the patio behind the synagogue sanctuary, standing on the tile or walking in the field and at the edge of the wetlands, our silent prayer accompanied by birdsong.

7. Joining maybe twenty people for gentle yoga on Yom Kippur afternoon, before our afternoon services. I had intended to meet in the classroom (I'd warned our yoga teacher that this idea was new to our congregation and that it was possible no one would come but me) but we had to move into the social hall outside the sanctuary because people just kept showing up! It felt wonderful to really enter my breathing and my body on Yom Kippur -- instead of trying to distract myself from the fast, I was able to enter into it in a new way.

8. Leading a guided meditation for our Avodah service on Yom Kippur afternoon: an invitation to imagine oneself as the High Priest engaging in the rituals of this day long ago, from staying up all night relearning the rites of the incense, to the many immersions in living waters, the golden raiments and the white linen ones, placing hands on the head of the bull (feel its power and its strength) and confessing sins, slaughtering the bull swift and sure and collecting its blood in a basin, all the way to the final emergence from the Holy of Holies, the singing and dancing of the community, the feeling of joy in knowing that atonement had truly been achieved.

9. The one Avinu Malkeinu we sang on Yom Kippur. Since Yom Kippur coincided with Shabbat, it's traditional not to recite Avinu Malkeinu until Ne'ilah, the closing service. It is the last thing we do before the very end of the day. Singing it, my voice grew stronger, and hoarser, and suddenly I could hardly hold back the tears. Our father, our king, seal us in the book of life! That was the one moment when I really let the emotions of the day overcome me: knowing that it was almost over, that my last chance to get my prayers and the prayers of my community through the gates of the day was upon me, I was finally able to completely let myself go. So overwhelming, so beautiful -- and then it was over.

10. Breaking my fast with a nip of ice-cold vodka, after the custom of my Russian grandfather Eppie (of blessed memory) -- and the delight of having company in that, as several others laughingly decided to join me! The vodka was like cold crisp fire going down. And as I drank it, I remembered so clearly seeing Eppie in the bar of the house where I grew up, sitting on the tall leather-topped bench, knocking back his vodka before we could go and eat... I like to imagine that somehow, in some way, some part of him could see us, and was pleased.