Five Steps into a Deeper Yom Kippur:

 How could Yom Kippur in our generation achieve the personal and society-wide transformations that evidently resulted from its observance when the Temple stood in Jerusalem and a million people gathered? Here are some suggestions --

 

1) As completion of and tshuvah (“repentance” or “turning”) for the two heartbreaking stories of 1st & 2d days Rosh Hashanah (the expulsion of Ishmael & the near-killing of Isaac), add a powerful tale of reconciliation to conventional afternoon Yom Kippur Torah readings. 
Add the story of the two brothers' reconnection to bury Abraham — Gen. 25: 7-11 --   after which Isaac goes to live at Ishmael’s well – Be’er Lachai Ro’i.  In our own generation, when many of the chldren of Israel and the children of Ishmael are so violently at odds with each other, this reading would  be especially powerful as a teaching toward compassion. 
 When Reb Phyllis and I have led Yom Kippur services, we have then asked congregants to pair off and to embody the two brothers at the burial of Avraham – having a 14-minute dialogue. Then we invite those who wish, to report the heart of their conversation to the kahal as a whole.

If you like, note also that the regular morning Torah reading -- the story of the two goats -- tracks Ishmael (the goat sent to the wilderness) and Isaac (the goat slaughtered on the Temple Mount, where according to tradition Isaac was bound and a ram was slaughtered as the substitute for sacrificing Isaac). Are these two events on Yom Kippur already a redress of the two stories — as if to say, “Not to humans but only to goats will we do these things” — and then the post-Temple, “Not even to goats will we do these things, but only tell the story -- “??  Even if we read them this way, also reading the explicit reconciliation of Abraham's two sons would have great value.
2) In the Avodah service, renew the ancient practice at the Temple by, if possible, taking people outside, inviting them to lie face-down on the grass, and asking them to melt into the adamah (Earth) for 18 minutes, then to be born as adam (earthling)As in Gen 2: 1, we lose the "— -ah"  of the breath from Mother Earth and then receive the Nishmat chayyim ("breath of life") from the Holy One Who is the Breath of Life.  This tells the mythic story of the birth of the human race by modeling it on an individual human birth — the fetus breathing thru the placenta till birth, losing that breath in being birthed, then beginning to breathe on her/his own.  A powerful reminder for this Shmita year and every year of the close relationship between Earth & Earthling, and of the need to heal the Breath that sustains us both — our CO2-saturated  atmosphere that is scorching our planet.

  3) For a slightly midrashic translation of the Isaiah Haftarah with music by Will Fudeman and Cantor Abbe Lyons
, and with flashes of  extraordinary graphics-in-motion by the renowned artist Michael Bogdanow  that carry its message, see <https://theshalomcenter.org/video/video-yom-kippur-haftarah-isaiah-5714-5814-midrashically-translated-rabbi-arthur-waskow> You can also draw on the written text of the translation, which you can find at <https://theshalomcenter.org/content/isaiah-breaks-official-liturgy-yom-kippur>.
 
4) For a new Martyrology/ Eleh Ezhereh,
in the video at <https://theshalomcenter.org/video/yom-kippur-new-meaning-new-martyrology>,
you can share some memories not in words alone but in the media of our generation – film and video  -- of  ten people who were killed during the last 50 years for Kiddush Hashem, because they were  affirming profound Jewish values.  This powerful film was made by Larry Bush, editor of Jewish Currents.  As part of the film,  Rabbi Liz Bolton chants some haunting melodies that evoke the ancient and the modern stories. And we see the faces and hear the words of these courageous men and women of our own epoch:  Schwerner. Goodman. Krause. Moffitt. Milk. Linder. Krichevsky. Rabin. Chain. Pearl.  A minyan of martyrs.
5) Hu Yaanenu /Hi TaanenuMay You Answer Us!

This more inclusive version of one of the traditional High Holy Day prayers can be sung to one of the traditional melodies. Shanah tovah!

Hu Yaanenu /Hi Taanenu
An Inclusive Version

You Who answered Sara in the palace — May You answer us;
You Who answered Avraham at knife-point — May You answer us;
You Who answered Rivka in her outcry — May You answer us;
You Who answered Yaakov at the river — May You answer us.
May You answer us, may You answer us,
May You answer us!
Hu yaanenu v'yom korenu, hi taanenu.

You Who answered Hagar in the desert — May You answer us;
You Who answered Ruth in the gleaning — May You answer us;
You Who answered Avimelech at the well-spring — May You answer us;
You Who answered Noach with the Rainbow — May You answer us.
May You answer us, may You answer us,
May You answer us!
Hi taanenu v'yom korenu, hu yaanenu.

You Who answered Miriam at the seashore — May You answer us;
You Who answered Moshe at Mount Sinai — May You answer us;
You Who answered Eliyahu at Mount Horeb — May You answer us;
You Who answered Chana when she whispered — May You answer us.
May You answer us, may You answer us,
May You answer us!
Hu yaanenu v'yom korenu, hi taanenu.

You Who answered Shifra and Puah — May You answer us;
You Who answered Yehonatan and David — May You answer us;
You Who answered Mordechai and Esther — May You answer us;
You Who answered B'ruriah and Me'ir — May You answer us.
May You answer us, may You answer us,
May You answer us!
Hi taanenu v'yom korenu, hu yaanenu.

You Who answered Nachman of Bratzlav — May You answer us;
You Who answered Henrietta Szold — May You answer us;
You Who answered Rosa Parks in Montgomery — May You answer us;
You Who answered King and Heschel — May You answer us;
May You answer us, may You answer us,
May You answer us!
Hi taanenu v'yom korenu, hu yaanenu.


May we all be written and sealed into the Book of Life, for a year of release from the burdens of domination or subjugation --
Shalom, salaam, peace; Earth, Earth, Earth! 



 

 

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