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Taking Responsibility

02/22/2024 10:11:54 AM

Feb22

Rabbi Dan Dorsch

I was driving toward a traffic light on East Cobb Drive the other day when a woman in a black Maserati SUV backed into my car.  She had tried to make a right turn, pulled halfway into the intersection, and then decided that she didn’t have enough time.  As she backed up rather quickly, I placed my hand firmly on the horn. No avail.  I could see the person behind me had left me no room to back up.  She bumped into the front of my car.
 
Accidents happen.  Thank God, no one was hurt.  I suspected at the time that there was likely little to no damage.  I waited 30 seconds or so for her to get out of her car, to come over, to make sure everyone was okay.  Only something strange happened.  She didn’t get out of her car.  She didn’t put her flashers on.  Nothing that I would’ve assumed was a typical “I hit you” protocol.  It almost seemed like she was preparing to drive away. 
 
Perplexed, I got out of my car.  I surveyed the damage to both our cars.  Thankfully, our bumpers had a bit of a kiss, and the cars were fine.  Only once I had reentered my car did she get out to look at her car.  As she entered back into her car, I screamed out my window, “no damage, it’s all good.”  No response.  She didn’t seem that interested in talking.  She drove away as fast as she could.
 
Maybe it was embarrassment.  Perhaps, arrogance.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think it’s symptomatic of a greater problem.  
 
So long as there have been human beings, we have been causing physical damage to each other.  Damage is a fact of life.  All things fall apart. 
 
In Daf Yomi right now, we are in the middle of Bava Kama, a section of the Talmud all about damages.  It chronicles damages falling into all different kinds of categories (one never knew how much damage an ox could do in so many ways) based on levels of intent and responsibility. 
 
Ultimately, however, the underlying message of these messy, dense, pages of Talmud is universal: we have the responsibility not only took look after ourselves but after our fellow human beings, by making some kind of restitution for the damage we cause.  There are different levels of culpability.  But ultimately, we must own our mistakes.  Even the small ones.
 
Apparently, this lesson is known to a rabbi driving a Honda but escaped this woman driving her 100K Maserati. 
 
I now understand why I paid that extra money for the dashboard camera.

Doing the Right Thing

02/12/2024 03:59:52 PM

Feb12

Rabbi Dan Dorsch

There are many reasons why I keep my own personal political beliefs close to the chest.  

First and foremost is because I do not want anyone to believe that a particular sermon I give or a stance that our synagogue takes is rooted in my own personal politics.  Instead of letting politics guide us, I let Torah and the Talmud do the talking.  To quote our illustrious executive director Marty Gilbert, our mantra at Etz Chaim is to “do the right thing.”  We believe that doing (and by extension, preaching) the right thing–dealing with people honestly, honoring our commitments, not treating people “extra special” or “less than,” and having compassion for people in need–are best business practices firmly rooted in our Torah.  They come irrespective of politics.

Yet, as we find ourselves amid the Election Primary Season, I find there is a different reason why I keep my beliefs closely guarded.  

Ed Koch, the famously deceased Jewish mayor of New York, said, “If you agree with me nine out of 12 times, vote for me.  If you agree with me 12 out of 12 times, go see a psychologist.” 

Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, I am not sure that my personal beliefs about politics fit together neatly into any one party.  I also believe that I hold the same right as any human being to grow, evolve, and learn.  

Decades ago, Ed Koch’s way of thinking was the norm.  However, the ideological purity that is demanded today by the extremes of both parties have lost people like me.  Nine out of 12 beliefs was once good enough.  Today, we see how the culture of our time demands that we quash disagreement, often in the most disrespectful kinds of ways. 

Over the past several months, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought as to why a family chooses to become part of our synagogue.  

I can easily rattle off twelve reasons:  An active Shabbat morning community.  Preschool friendships.  A growing cadre of young families.  A dedicated group of more seasoned families.  Our inclusive philosophy.  A deep commitment to Jewish learning and Torah study.  An engaging and academic religious school.  Our morning minyan chevra.  Chavurot.  Engaged affinity groups.   A strong culture of volunteerism.  Exciting new opportunities to come.  And yes…the rabbi.

I am not so naive as to not know that there are those of you who may not care for all of those things (every now and then, I especially hear about that last one).  

True adults, however, understand this: that looking for a perfect recipe for happiness in your life is a folly.  Assuming you will find 12 out of 12—whether it is a synagogue, a life partner, or even a home to purchase--is a recipe for dissatisfaction.  Instead, finding happiness is about appreciating the things you like, and trying to internally change the things that we can do better. 

We may all disagree on what we like or dislike about this place we all call home…but if you like nine out of 12…consider voting for Congregation Etz Chaim.

My Trip to Israel: Finding Justice for the Jewish People

11/15/2023 10:47:23 AM

Nov15

Rabbi Dan Dorsch

So, first thing is first.  I know that parents are told never to lie to their kids.  I want to apologize to Zev and Haley, and maybe to some of you too, by saying I was going to New York when I was really going to Israel.  But I want to assure you that I had a good reason.  Not only did I not want my kids to be scared, but I didn’t want my kids' first memory of Israel to be worrying about their dad.

We are here because we know that Israel is a special place: the place where our family lives, where we get to eat at Kosher McDonald's, the place where eventually at a gift shop, someday, I’ll finally be able to find a key chain with Zev’s name on it.  Israel is so special that it brings all kinds of people from all over the world to support it…including as I was getting in line for check-in at JFK, these strange and now famous guys from Montana going to Israel to help farm the West Bank.  Yes, all those photos almost blew my cover. I’ve never met four nicer guys who love Jews and the State of Israel.  

So now, on a more serious note, I want to tell you why I went, and what I saw, in a way that I hope makes sense.  Although I have to say that as sleep-deprived as I am, I am still making sense of so many of the soul-crushing things that I saw.

As I walked through Kfar Aza, the site of a massacre where 58 people were murdered in Southern Israel, and where dozens of people were taken hostage, I couldn’t help but think of the poet Chaim Nachman Bialik.  In the spring of 1903, following the pogrom at Kishinev, he wrote a poem called Al HaShchita, “Upon the Slaughter.”  Walking through the horrors 120 years ago, as I did this week, he declared: Veim yesh tzedek hofiya miyad. “If there is justice in the world, let it appear immediately!”  It didn’t.  Not in Kishinev.

85 years ago, the pogrom of Kristalnacht took place in Germany.  Veim yesh tzedek hofiya miyad.  There too, there was no justice.  Throughout our history, entire Jewish communities were attacked over and over again.  Still, no justice.  Massacre after massacre, Holocaust after Holocaust, we see the same thing: the world does not cry out for justice for Jews.

Yet, friends, after going on this trip, I came to an important realization:  The world doesn’t care about us as much as we hoped, and that is why we must care about each other more than we should.  Justice for Jews only exists in our world because we have a State of Israel that cares when Jewish lives are lost.  

Today, the phrase on posters and flags throughout Israel is: ביחד ננצח “We win when come together.”  That is what Israel is doing right now.  Israel teaches us that we no longer have to be a people denied justice.  Israel allows rabbis and ordinary Jews to put on tactical helmets and bulletproof vests and walk into the site of a pogrom not in a faraway place…but in a Jewish state...to bear witness, and to say “this is not justice!” and know that in Israel, justice will be done.

I am not going to lie to you.  When I was invited to go to Israel, I didn’t want to go.  Who runs toward an active war zone?  But here’s the thing.  So much of the unjust world wants to present what is happening in Israel as business as usual.  Only now I can tell you with absolute certainty that having walked through the site of a pogrom, this is anything but business as usual.

I keep hearing from people, from our inept Cobb County Commission to the media that this conflict needs “to be seen in a context.”  “Both sides.”  It’s only fair.

But guess what?  I don’t think any of them are looking at the right context.  When I step on bullet casings, see giant holes made in homes with RPGs shot from point blank range; when I see people’s stuff piled outside their homes because after they were killed from Gaza ran in to loot them; I keep thinking, what context are you thinking about? Other than terrorism? Folks, I will no longer refer to Hamas using the terms barbarian or animals, because it is an insult to barbarians and animals.

When I am at a meeting in Jerusalem, and someone jokingly tells us they need to leave before Rush Hour, because Hamas fires missiles during Rush Hour to kill as many people as possible, is the right context to look at the 1993 Oslo Accords?

When the UNICEF calls out to the children of Gaza, and says Israel is committing war crimes, but only on Friday for the first time acknowledged the 40+ children held hostage in Gaza who are scared and haven’t talked to their parents in over a month, is the context we need to look at the history of a two-state solution? Or is the context one pure unadulterated anti-Semitism at the United Nations?  We have lots of real estate developers in our shul.  They should buy that NYC property and put up condos.

I keep hearing the media say: “give peace a chance.” “Call a ceasefire.” That’s their context.  But when you see an entire parking lot with hundreds of cars, windows smashed in, bullet holes, baby strollers still in the trunk, all from people attending a music festival who will no longer be able to pick up their cars because they are dead or are being held hostage…is this business as usual?  “Veim yesh tzedek hofiya miyad.”  Or is this really a story about historical injustice done to Jews?  

Around our bus of thirty rabbis and lay leaders, there was a widely circulated meme going around Israel of a man holding up a sign that said, “Here’s an idea, let’s trade a hundred pro-Hamas college students for each hostage, good for Hamas, good for Israel, good for America, educational for college students.”  Sounds great.  But then, we all realized the problem. If that happened, Israel would have to go rescue those morons.  Then, when they were rescued at the expense of Israeli lives they would still scream for a Free Gaza.

And I must say that in the day and a half, I’ve had to process this, and I have so much more still to do, this meme encapsulates the realization that I am both struggling with and presents the hope that I see after a very sobering trip: the hope that for every Hamas supporter on an American college campus or terrorist in Gaza who devalues human life that there is an Israeli, a Jew, or a person of conscience who is willing to fight for life.

Before I close, I want to share with you just a few examples where I saw this juxtaposition play out time and time again on my trip.

On the first day, I met a woman named Ayelet HaShachar.  Those of you who know Hebrew, you know her name is a little funny: it means the morning dawn.  Ayelet is the mother of Naomi Levy.  She is nineteen years old.  Ayelet is waiting, like 240+ sets of family members for Naomi to come home.  Naomi was a soldier on the southern border for two days when terrorists came and took her captive in her pajamas. The video was posted online.

But that’s not what I want you to know about Naomi. At 19 years old, Naomi already decided she was planning to major in diplomacy.  She had just spent her summer participating in a United States program with Palestinian youth trying to promote peaceful coexistence.  Today, Naomi is in a tunnel in Gaza. Ayelet is going through something no one in this room ever has to go through.  And yet her story of hope inspires thousands of people of all faith backgrounds to come together in a public square every night in Tel Aviv to pray for the hostages.  There is in fact an entire camp where people from all over Israel come to Tel Aviv meet those families on a daily basis and share their love.  I participated in that vigil with thirty other rabbis and lay leaders on Tuesday night and saw her courage gave all of us hope.

Where else is the hope?  Usually, on most trips to Israel, I pray at the Kotel and I find hope there. This time, I found hope when I prayed on the side of the Convention Expo Center in Tel Aviv.  This Center has now become a warehouse for displaced families to get what they need.  There are huge piles of everything from board games to full beds to clothing to the supplies you donated to the synagogue for soldiers.  Hamas took all hope away from these people, their lives, their homes, their security.   But today Israeli society is doing what it can to restore it.  By the way, the center is being run by an organization called Achim LaNeshek, brothers in arms.  Until the war, this organization was leading the protest movement against the Prime Minister’s highly unpopular judicial reform.  Yet, the second the war started, and entire communities started to flee, they dropped their protest signs and put all of their efforts toward helping displaced persons.  They make a point of not calling these people refugees, they are called displaced because, in the State of Israel, you always have a home.  That is the hope.

Where else is the hope?  All across the country, I drew inspiration from our mission by seeing the way that the Jewish people work to preserve life that Hamas has tried to destroy. When I arrived, I assumed our hotel in Jerusalem would be empty: who comes to a war zone?  But it was full of displaced Jews who were being provided for by the hotel staff, and the kids enrolled in local schools.  Therein lies hope.   We visited Hadassah Hospital.  I know many of you are lifetime members of Hadassah.  Well, Hadassah built an underground trauma wing in a parking garage under the hospital to handle the overflow.  Now, compare that to the death culture of Hamas, building headquarters, and who are holding hostages under its hospitals.  Today, the Sochnut, the Jewish Agency, the same organization that sends us our shinshinim, is helping 5500 families helped by the Jewish agency’s victims of terror fund.  Yes, Hamas has hurt that many families – 5500 – but see how many of them are now getting help!  There is the hope.  Together I gave out hundreds of cards and letters written to young soldiers written by so many of our kids in Atlanta. I will be the first to admit that I thought to myself, what a cheesy gesture.  You have no idea how you touched these 19-year-old soldiers were to know American Jewish kid cares about them.  The last soldier whom I gave a letter and some long underwear to, by the way, was my former camper, serving on the northern front in an artillery unit. They were blown away.  You gave them hope.  

I know I’ve been all over the place today.  I want to thank you for bearing with me.  I especially want to thank my wife Amy for letting me go on this trip.  When I asked her if it was okay to go, she only told me that she was jealous and that she wanted to go.  I can’t thank her enough.

And so, this morning, after a challenging trip, I want to conclude with a song after so much terror, about hope.  Rabbi Adler taught it to us over the holidays.  It’s called Lu Yehi.  It’s Naomi Shemer’s translation of the Beatles' Let it Be.  Fifty years ago, Lu Yehi was the song of the Yom Kippur War.  Today, I want to tell you that once again, this song of hope of Lu Yehi has become the song of hope in this war for Israelis.  It is on all the radio stations.

There is a lot we can despair about this morning if we try.  But what I took away from my mission in addition to what I saw, is that we can be proud that Am Yisrael is more resilient than ever.  Fifty years after the war on Yom Kippur we are coming together again.  Hope springs eternal. I have no doubt that we will eradicate this evil and darkness from the world and bring light.  Veim yesh tzedek hofiya miyad.  120 years after Kishinev, we can with the State of Israel bring justice once again to a world that for thousands of years, without an Israel, denied justice to the Jewish people.  Lu Yehi.  May justice reign again soon in our time.

https://www.brothersandsistersforisrael.org/

Be-naareynu U-vizukunaynu: Moving Forward Together

09/21/2023 04:09:56 PM

Sep21

Rabbi Dan Dorsch

Rosh Hashanah 5784:
 
Be-naareynu U-vizukunaynu: Moving Forward Together
 
This past year has been one of two major milestones in my life.
 
The first is a milestone birthday that reminds me how old I’ve become since I arrived at Etz Chaim. No one tells you when you are in your 30s that your body and your brain come with a “check engine light” and your warranty is about to expire at around 39 ½ years. I keep waiting for a Telemarketer to call and say, “We’ve been trying to get in touch with you about renewing your Mortality and Mental Warranty." Wait, but there’s more! Right after I turned 40, I was at a local restaurant, and I got carded. I said to the waiter, “I am so excited. I haven’t been carded in years!” He looked at me and said, “I’m sorry sir, I wasn’t asking for your ID. I was asking for your AARP card! For your discount.”
 
In addition to having turned 40, what makes this sermon a shehechiyanu moment for me personally is that this Rosh Hashanah now marks the 7th year I have been in this synagogue.
 
Now, I know for some of you it seems like I just got here. I know this is true because every few months I meet someone who says to me, oh you must be the new rabbi at Etz Chaim. Rabbi Lewis, how many years does it take until I become the “OLD Rabbi”? Earlier this year a congregant whose identity because my brain is out of warranty, I have long forgotten, stopped me. “You know Rabbi, I have to say you still seem new to me because in all of the years I’ve been here, I haven’t met your wife.” I said, that’s funny: she comes every Shabbat morning…
 
Yet getting serious now, let’s look at seven years in the framework of the Jewish tradition. The Torah teaches: Shesh Shanim Tizmor Karmecha. Six years you till your fields. And on the seventh year, rest, reflect, dream big about your future.
 
Which is why at long last, as the “no longer so new” rabbi, having left the days of my wearing light up sneakers long behind me, I want to dream big with you, and I want to share what must be our collective vision for our community. Not only where we are now, but where we will be together, in seven years and beyond.
 
And to do that with you this morning, what I want to talk about is not this Rosh Hashanah, but the other Rosh Hashanah: which for the Jews living in the Torah, was almost certainly Pesach, which takes place during the Hebrew month of Nissan, what the Torah calls the first month of the year.
 
Now hold on a second rabbi, Ma Nishtana: Why would the Jews of the Torah celebrate Rosh Hashanah at Passover, and not Tishrei? It’s because while the creation of the world happened today, the first of Tishrei, what the Jews of the Torah understood was that it was the Exodus that first made us a community: and for those Jews, the creation of community was tantamount to creating a whole new World.
 
Some of us, when we think of Yetziyat Mitrayim, think of a dashing Charlton Heston and an erudite albeit also good looking, bald Yule Brenner demanding that the Children of Israel go free.
 
But for the Jews of the Torah, Rosh Hashanah was the moment we were finally, for the first time we called Am Yisrael, the people of Israel. Pesach was the moment we came together in a common cause. And it is the moment when Moses says what to me is the defining vision of Jewish life, my vision for this synagogue as we move forward together.
 
Moshe, in that moment, tells Pharaoh with conviction, benaareynu uvizkaynaynu nelech. We will leave Egypt. We will get to the Promised Land. But only if we walk with our young and our old together.
 
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz once defined a Jew not as someone whose grandparents were Jewish, but someone who desires that their grandchildren also be Jewish. Friends, that’s also Moses’ point. Jewish community, synagogues, only thrive when we create a community where our young and old care about one another. Think the Pesach Seder, today, the most practiced ritual among all American Jews. Why is that? It’s because in a time of increasing ageism and lack of understanding between generations, the Seder is the quintessential Jewish ritual when grandparents celebrate grandchildren, and grandchildren honor their grandparents.
 
Yet it’s no secret: among the Jewish people and certainly in our country, we are increasingly becoming a society that segregates by age. When I moved to East Cobb, one of the first friends I made was a preacher from Dallas, which until that point I thought was a city in Texas. We got to learn a little about one another’s communities. And that’s when he asked me: "Are you a young church or an old church?" I had to laugh. What on earth was he talking about? Main Line Protestants run old churches. Young Christians were gravitating toward non-denominational Christian houses of worship. So, which were we? I told him Benaareynu Uvizkunaynu: Etz Chaim would be a community for all.
 
Only in that moment I must admit that his words reminded me of a story of several elderly chasidim who met with their rebbe to complain. The children, the elderly chasidim said, are disturbing our kavana and our davening. Can you have their parents remove them from the beis medrash. The rebbe nodded. Hours later a number of parents met with the rebbe and complained that their children felt unwanted in the shul. The elders were pushing them out the door. The rebbe nodded. The next day the rebbe invited both delegations into his study. Our shul, the rebbe said, needs the older members to reach up to the top of the shelves to gather what is holy up there. Our shul needs our youngsters to reach down to gather from the floor what has tumbled to the ground that is holy down there. We cannot have true holiness without both reaching up and reaching down together. How do we know this? Moshe told Pharaoh: Binaareinu uvizkayneinu nelech.
 
Thousands of years ago, when we left Egypt, young and old coming together was the rule: now, it is the exception. And in particular, I have been thinking about this since last Sukkot, when I was witness to both a beautiful and concerning interaction that took place in our shul. A more senior congregant came to a younger one who had brought her two young children to services and thanked her for coming. Why, asked the younger parent, would you possibly thank me for coming? The older congregant said, “I am grateful that you came to hang out with a bunch of old fogeys like us.” That’s when the younger congregant turned to me and said, “Rabbi, I don’t get it. I grew up on a kibbutz. There, we have a deal. The young take care of the old...and the old people are supposed to look after my kids. “Why,” she observed, “are American Jews failing at this so badly?”
 
Friends, she’s right. We are failing at this badly. Maybe it’s because people of different generations struggle to understand one another and see the world differently. Maybe it is our age. The latest PEW forum data on American religious life reported that Jews are the oldest religious group in America. We have an average age of 67. Maybe it’s our differing priorities. My parents and grandparents were married in their 20s and only then settled into their careers. Among 18–40-year-olds in America right now, only 32% even see marriage, and building a family, as key to their fulfillment.
Their careers come first.
 
I get it: we are not always going to see things the same way. We are not always going to want to practice Judaism the same way. But here is my point in all these stories: can you imagine what a country, what a Jewish people we could create if we put aside the ageism, the complaints about millennials, the “Ok Boomers” and we could be part of that Kibbutz style deal? Literally, Kibbutz means gathering together. Benaareyunu Uvizkunaynu. Can you imagine what we could do if we would only listen to Moses, who taught us that for the Jewish people to thrive, you need the wisdom and experience that comes from an older generation, the holiness up here, coupled with the vibrancy and enthusiasm that comes from a younger generation, the holiness down here.
 
Folks, I will tell you how I know at Etz Chaim we are on the right track. Because friends, in the same day, I swear to God, bli neder, I was the rebbe in our story, having had these two conversations only hours a part:
 
The first person walked into my office. She told me, “Rabbi, our synagogue is too old. We are an aging congregation. You must do more programming for young people like me.” I told her about Sukkahfest, our rapidly growing preschools and religious schools, targeted family programs, thriving youth groups, and she agreed that she was full of misconceptions, that she needed to come to Tot Shabbat, we were a synagogue for young people.
 
Not an hour later, the person's mother walked into my office. She said, “Rabbi, our synagogue is too young. There are so many new young families, I don’t know half the people on the holidays. You must be neglecting old people like me.” And so, I told her about our thriving partnership with Agewell, adult learning opportunities, chavurot, partnerships with Huntcliff, our Prime Timers, and the like. And she agreed she was also misinformed, and that we were a synagogue for mature Jewish adults.
 
Only here, at that moment, was my mistake. Here’s where I messed up. I should’ve called them into a room together and told them the story of two Jews discussing how their synagogue might change with the selection of a new rabbi. One search committee member said: “I want a rabbi who will create an environment where my grandfather would feel comfortable,” The second one thought, then said, “I want a rabbi who will create an environment where my granddaughter will feel comfortable.”
 
I should’ve told them how we here at Etz Chaim, not only under the old rabbi, but under the new rabbi, we will do both of those things together. I should’ve told them about our Better Together Grant, which this year will have students and seniors learning about the Holocaust together. I should’ve told him about our Bubbes and Zaydee’s volunteering in the preschool, and the hugs and kisses given to Papas and Nanas and Bubbes and Zaydees. I should’ve told them about our Sisterhood Kickoff event, organized by women in their 30s and attended by people in their 90s. I should’ve told them about the joy of seeing people of all generations celebrate Blue Jean Shabbat or Shabbat in the Park. Or about kiddush tables and buffet lines filled with people on Shabbos from different generations connecting. Be-Naareynu U-Vizkaynaynu, all founded on the belief that all of us, no matter what our age and experience are part of a deal: where we care about one another.
 
My ask of you is simple. In the waning days of COVID, now is the time to re-engage with us. Continue to be a part of creating this meaningful, purposeful, multi-generational family. Tell both your children and your parents that this is a place for all of us. It doesn’t mean we are going to always be interested in the same kinds of things or see Judaism the same. But let us never forget that what has always made this synagogue strong are the depths of our intergenerational relationships.
 
It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years. Not seven years of an old church or a young church, but seven years of Am Yisrael, a nation of Israel. Not an aging congregation nor only a young one, but a community of grandparents who sit for a Seder, and grandchildren who sing the Ma Nishtana. Seven years of holiness both above and below. Seven years not only of ID cards but AARP cards thriving together.
 
Ledor Vador. Together, over the next six years we will till our fields and get down to work: so that in another six years, we will once again celebrate the fruits of our labor. Please join me in reciting the Shehechiyanu….
 

Music Evokes Memories and Emotions

09/05/2023 10:28:44 AM

Sep5

Rabbi Dan Dorsch

There are certain songs that I can’t listen to without sobbing. Anything by James Taylor and Carol King. Puff the Magic Dragon. Most of what plays on the “The Bridge” channel on SiriusXM.
 
What is amazing is this inevitable sobbing begins before any of the lyrics are actually recited.  I just have to hear a few chords.  My mother used to sing Puff the Magic Dragon to me as a child while strumming the guitar in bed.  And so the first time I tried reading a copy of the book to Zev, I couldn’t get through the book without tears staining all of the pages.  No doubt, the theme of the song–the loss of innocence and childhood–could be worth a good cry.  But over time, I’ve discovered I am not crying because of the content.  I am crying because of the memories evoked by the music.
 
In a few weeks, Jews across the country will come in droves into the pews for Kol Nidrei. In Israel, even Israelis who have never been in services will gather outside of synagogues to hear the final sounding of the Shofar.  
 
Very few people think about what Kol Nidrei even means or why we do it.  In sum, we are setting up a court of elders who will retroactively annul all of the vows we may make with God and accidentally forget about in the coming year.  No doubt, that topic is worthy of a good cry.  We all make promises and in the wake of the new year, sometimes forget them.  Painful consequences can ensue when we forget our promises.  
 
However, I am not sure this is what resonates with people at Kol Nidrei.  A Shofar that sounds without a memory of shofarot past is powerful, but it’s not the same.  Kol Nidrei makes us cry because the music and the chanting remind us of what was and is no longer each year.  And we come back year after year because of who was with us once upon a time and now only exists as a memory.  
 
Our rabbis refer to the melody used for Kol Nidrei as being so old that it is “MiSinai” (from Sinai).  That makes sense.  When we cry at Kol Nidrei, we are not the only ones. We cry alongside the Jewish people who eternally cry at the same melody, from generation to generation.
Sat, February 24 2024 15 Adar I 5784