Saturday, October 08, 2005

Sherman Alexie's Words This Yom Kippur

We sat there with the High Holidays' mahzor, the little red book my Mom and Dad carried with them to Temple Beth Rafael in Miami Beach every year at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They've departed to their holy places in the next world, but the little orange card from 1983, that was paid for to attend the service, remains inside.

My children Gerri and Mitch sat there and read portions of it last night after dinner, because it is the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and it is when we could all get together for a holiday dinner.

My mother, may she rest in peace, cried when she would read certain portions in old world Hebrew. My father always attended Kol Nidre service the eve before Yom Kippur. I'm certain he must have mourned his mother and father then, the Bubbie and Zaide I never knew because they were murdered in the holocaust. It was something we didn't talk about in our home, ever.

My sister Marian and I never understood the powerful Hebrew words of the mahzor, but in English, they would translate to just how utterly holy was the day of Yom Kippur, and how each of us would be judged to see how we would live or die in the coming year. The words in English were devastating. If we did not repent, we could die by stoning or by floods or by fire. We understood the meaning of Day of Atonement, and now, watching my kids reading the book in English, in preparation for the Yom Kippur fast, those days at the synagogue come back to me so vividly.

For something beautiful to read this holiday, something that allows me to reach out with respect to my adopted Navajo Dad and to all my tribal relations, I was blessed to receive a wonderful poem by Sherman Alexie called "Inside Dachau." It brings to us the unfeeling horrors of war and hatred, and the continuum from earliest colonial times in this country, to Nazi Germany and way beyond.

Thank you Sherman for unveiling the men and women who lurk behind white doors, the ones who give us leaders who think of war as a sport that has no faces. Le Shana Tova!