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What a Blessing

I am looking forward to Yom Kippur this year. No, not because I have sinned worse than in previous years. Nor because of the music or any particular event. I intend to hear 3 rabbis, and I'll give a little sermon myself. That's not it either, although I am looking forward to my colleagues' thoughts and words. And I'm sure to be hungry and thirsty, so that's not it.

I am looking forward to renewal.

Some decades ago a colleague of mine, when he was slightly younger than my age now, stopped making hospital visits. They scared him I think. He wasn't just visiting congregants anymore, he was visiting friends, people just like himself, his own age. I think he couldn't separate himself from them. Their illness raised the prospect of his own. Too personal.

I have just received notice of the death of a very good guy, Dr. Stan Brand, a mensch and a guteh neshamah. It's my fourth "acquaintance" my own age, people with whom I worked in some fashion, to pass unexpectedly in the last few weeks. It makes me sad.

But it also turns me to look forward to renewal this Yom Kippur.

I certainly recognize that my life is limited by my mortality. I have 3 yahrzeits to commemorate on Yom Kippur: both grandfathers and my father. I get it.

But I've been given another day!, maybe another year! Nothing is promised, but with another Kol Nidre and the promise of repentance I know I can do better. Yom Kippur is not an end, it's the beginning of a restatement of my life, the opportunity to improve, to challenge, to make a difference that will matter beyond my own mortality in lives I may not even know.

I am reminded of the true story of a 7th grader who resolved to take his own life. Being the obedient child, he cleaned out his school locker to save his saddened parents the chore. Walking home another child pushed him and caused his books to scatter, another insult. But this time, a boy he'd never met helped him pick up the books, talked to him, and invited him home. They became friends. One act of altruism saved his life, showed him possibility. When the boy who might have died gave his valedictory address as #1 in his high school class, he told the story and thanked his friend.

Kol Nidre represents infinite opportunity, no matter what our resources, no matter what our connections. The coming year, in which we now are determined to change if not THE world, at least OUR world, stretches before us like the Yellow Brick Road.

I hope for at least another year. God willing. But the excitement of possibility will awaken with me daily. Who knows what lives I, and you, may touch. What a glorious God, that has created such a world of blessings.

Gmar hatimah tovah.


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