Sunday, September 15, 2013

Yom Kippur 5774... 2013. Where weakness and strength are one.

This was an amazing Yom Kippur. I prayed like there is no tomorrow. I prayed for tomorrow. I prayed for Gd to hear our prayers.

This specific prayer is the one that *always* gets me crying while I daven (pray). I sob while I say it, each year, since I had NF:

"On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted."

Having been one who almost died before her time (as evidenced with the benevolent gift from The Creator by restoring my life), it hits me hard. Really hard. I cry because He saved me. Saved my children and husband from the grief of being a mother-less family, Gd forbid.

My doctor said that I was a half hour from dying the day the NF was discovered. A half hour.

This time my tears were also rolling down my cheeks thinking of the older loved ones in my life, wondering how long is Hashem going to benevolently let them stay in my life. I prayed for time with them.

A friend, while giving me a bracha (prayer) for the new year, said that she wished for me [all the usual stuff: health, joy, pride in our children], and also a new one I hadn't heard yet... Time. It was an awesome bracha, as I saw it. May you be blessed with *time*. Time to live your life. Time with your family, time with your parents, time to enjoy life, time to give to others. I loved that. Just bless someone with time. It's a huge blessing.

Back to the blessing above, called in Hebrew "U'Netaneh Tokef" ,ונתנה תוקף, explained in depth here: ונתנה תוקף

Near the end of the prayer, it says:
"Who will live in harmony and who will be harried".
That is another one that always gets to me. I often feel that my life is especially harried, and I cannot rest, even when I am resting. I rest only because my body makes me, not because of feeling a natural time to do so. I keep going until I can't. That is a harried life, in my opinion. Each year I pray that I can receive just a portion of that blessing, and live a more peaceful life. But then again, don't so many of us?

There is also a place in the prayers that explains what sort of punishments can be incurred if one breaches Torah law. One such punishment is childlessness. When I was single, I closed my eyes and concentrated on those words, and begged Gd to protect me from that fate.
When I was pregnant, each time I said that part, I begged Hashem to let me give birth; to carry this soul into our family, and not to stop the pregnancy.

Now, I beg for Hashem to continue to lend me these four souls. To bring them up with Torah, and that Hashem grant them a long, full life. I literally beg for these children to live. That is what childlessness means to me today. Yes, I have children. I am not childless. But, one must never forget- they are on loan.

The last two hours are the most intense praying of the entire year (for me). Two hours of beseeching God to hear our prayers and answer them affirmatively and lovingly. That service (at the end of Yom Kippur) is called "Neilah". It means "locking", meaning that the gates of heaven are almost locking, that this is our last chance to beg and appeal to God to hear and answer our prayers.

That service is prayed while standing the entire time (about 2 hours).
This is after 23 hours of fasting (no water or food).
We are at our weakest, but have to daven like there is no tomorrow. Because there may not be.

We sometimes raise our voices. We sometimes pray very loudly; fervently. We want Hashem to know that we accept Him as our only King, now and forever. We say it over and over. Louder and louder. It is raw intensity which rises out from the walls of the synagogue.

Then the shofar is sounded to signify the end of Yom Kippur, and that we have one more strong call to Hashem. It traditionally starts with the well known short tones, then ends on a very long tone, held as long as possible, getting louder as it goes on. The person who blows the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur has to daven that he won't faint, and that he'll have power and strong breath to beseech God, on behalf of the entire community, this one last time.
You did a great job, Robert. I love you and am so proud of you.

I fasted the entire time, thanks to Hashem for the strength, and the hour+ to rest at home between the services. It was 36 degrees celsius today... that is 96.8 in Fahrenheit. No drinking. Walking back-and-forth from home to shul 4 times (15 min walk each way; 10 if you are walking normally... me, 15). I made it. Baruch Hashem. It is the first time since I got sick, that I was at all four services for Yom Kippur. I feel fulfilled and a sort of high from that ability. My body is strong, even when it is weak and challenged.

By the end, I was, indeed, very very weak. My chest was hurting, my breathing shallow, my hands shaking and my gait wobbly. That happened because I am on the narcotics, and they cause respiratory problems if they are going into a body which is compromised in strength. Today, they won. But really, I did. Hashem let me fast, joining the whole of the Jewish people, and didn't separate me out.

(The feeling I had today I remember very poignantly from the days when I had NF, in the hospital, just trying my first steps out of bed for the first time after a week of surgeries and coma. That week I was pumped with copious amounts of morphine (respiratory depressor), so taking just a few steps- with a walker- winded me and put pressure on my chest. I couldn't take more than a few steps without feeling faint. I recognized the feeling today; I hadn't experienced that in quite a long time. Thankfully, it was on a much smaller scale today.)

On the way home from shul, even though I had already had a bottle of water, an apple, and some home-made energy crisps (fantastic tasting! Amazing recipe which I made up! If you want it, let me know.), I still had to stop at two different benches just to get myself home. Azriel stopped with me. He accompanied me the whole way, his little hand gripping mine.

I pray for myself, my family, and all Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) that all our fervent, heartfelt prayers were heard, and they will be answered positively. May it be only for good and not for bad.

Now... four days until the holiday of Succot. The whirlwind of the holy-days!

(Please Gd, let me & my family not be harried getting ready for the holiday!)


  1. Sarah
    Mmm, home made energy crisps. If they are not super potchky, I’d love the recipe.

    Wow, I am so proud of you for fasting! Did your dr. approve? Go, you!

    Sarah, I wish you strength, happiness, health, and I too give you a bracha for time. What a wise friend you have.


  2. May you have , and may we all have, an amazing year of of good health and feeling well physically, emotionally and spiritually: ourselves, our children and all our loved ones!

  3. beautifully written - may you and yours go from strength to strength ! gmar chatima tova

  4. Glad you made it!!! To life and YOm Kippur! We break with oj the shul had a break the fast It is so nice that we do not have to walk home so weak!!! One of the members of Shir Hadash sponsored the kiddush

  5. I was watching you. Both you and the lady at the end of the row were crying so hard that I was worried.

  6. may there be many more "highs" in the coming year and less and less "lows". I didn't fast this year...just started real food again last sunday. All is well and slowly getting back to myself.

  7. I was very moved reading your post, it's beautiful and inspiring.