Prepent Day 38+39: Words Matter — a Glimpse of the Divine

Tuesday 10/11/16

Tishrei 8 5777

Dear Words,

It’s not just words, folks.

Yes, you matter. Each and every word we say and txt and even the one we don’t say and swallow up, sometimes wisely, sometimes not. Words hurt. We hurt with words and we can apologize with words. Our words matter. I apologize to you, words, for misusing you in many ways this year.

I got into a tense exchange with a dear friend this past May over words. The words of the Israeli anthem. There was discussion about playing it at a public event and I voiced my concern, shared by many, that the words of Ha’Tikva still resonate but the exclusivity of “Jewish” does not include the 25% of non-Jewish Israelis. Just one word can be changed to be inclusive and welcoming. Our exchange got heated. We both later apologized to each other.

Recent debate over an anthem rose this past summer, thanks to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States.

Our private and public words matter a lot. In this world of so many words, these included, we are all guilty of misusing words in error, malice, rage or hurt.

Tonight, the 38th on our journey into love and balance, we pause to focus on our vows, our promises, our words. Kol Nidrei, the prayer which begins tonight’s Yom Kippur service, gives us a ritual formula for at least taking responsibility for the unfathomable amount of words we have unleashed upon the world this past year - and for taking on more careful and responsible use of words in the year to come.

We chant the ancient words as did our ancestors before us, fragile, human, hopeful, honest in our return to this place,this time, this word, on our journey.

I wish this for us all on this Yom Kippur: that we open our hearts and our minds on this night of vows and this day of atonement to our truth. May we use our words for good.

“May the words of mouth be accepted willingly, and my heart’s intent shared lovingly.”

Gmar Chatima Tova. Sealed, with a word, with a kiss.



Wednesday 10/12/16

Tishrei 9 5777

Dear Holy of Holies,

On this day, we are invited into the Sacrosanct. The Holy of Holies.

It was a room inside a temple, containing the most sacred relics, home to the divine presence, curtained off all year except today. The High Priest would enter to light incense at the feet of the Most High, a golden chain on his ankle lest he fall, and then withdraw, the ritual complete. The High Priest’s exit from the Holy of Holies signified to our ancestors the promise of a good new year, and the start of the feast.

The Holy of Holies lives on in our liturgy and imagination. For me you represent the invitation into intimacy, for a face to face encounter with self, other, truth.

On this 39th day of the journey to more love and life I fast, pause, prepare to enter the Holy of Holies just for an instant of presence, full presence, intimate, alive.

On this day and on all days, I wish for us all to create and to discover sacred moments of intimacy, holy chambers within our heart, shared experiences with other pilgrims to this temple we call life, times for truth.

May we enter and depart in peace.



PREPENT: Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s annual journey to the new year, with 40 ways in 40 days to reflect, refocus, recharge and restart life. This year features daily love letters inspired by Lab/Shul’s theme for the High Holy Days, “וְאָהַבְתָּ re:love.”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Prepent Day 38+39: Words Matter — a Glimpse of the Divine

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