Sunday, September 28, 2014
Brimley Road Cemetery
This year at Holy Blossom we are going to institute the traditional practice of visiting the graves of our loved ones during the High Holy Day season. This practice is called Kever Avot, and we will be holding this communal service at our historic Brimley Road cemetery. Kaddish the memorial prayer El Maleh Rachamim will be recited along with other prayers of remembrance and comfort. Mishkan Moeid: A Guide to the Jewish Seasons, a book about Reform Jewish practice, comments on Kever Avot, “Through these vistas, links to the preceding generations are reinforced and by contemplating the virtues of the deceased and their devotion to faith and people, we find strength and inspiration.”
In today’s culture of worshiping whatever is new and novel, revering those who came before us can be seen as counter cultural. Honoring the fact that the lives we live now are because of what they gave to us is a very Jewish impulse. I would not be the rabbi, Jew, or person I am today without memories of my grandparents’ wisdom, mentchlichkeit, and yiddishkeit living within me. As I work on the task of repentance and renewal this High Holy Day season, I will be guided by my loved ones who are no longer here with me.
The prayerbook On the Doorposts of Your House has a beautiful prayer to be said at the grave of a loved one that, I think, truly captures the intent of Kever Avot:
To this sacred place I come, drawn by the eternal ties that bind my soul to yours. Death has separated us. You are no longer at my side to share the beauty of the passing moment. I cannot look to you to lighten my burdens, to lend me your strength, your counsel, your faith. And yet what you mean to me neither withers nor fades. For a time we touched hands and hearts; still your voice abides within me, still your tender glance remains a joy to me. For you are part of me forever; something of you has become a deathless song on my lips. And so beyond the ache that tells how much I miss you, a deeper thought compels: we were together. I hold you still in mind, and give thanks for life and love. The happiness that was, the memories that do not fade, are a gift that cannot be lost. You continue to bless my days and years. I will always give thanks for you.
We are now in Elul, the month of preparation for the High Holy Days. It is a time of renewal in our Jewish year and for our Temple. The High Holy Days are also a time of return. We try to return to our truer selves. Paying homage to our loved ones of the past can help us on this journey of return.