There was one verse that stood out to me from yesterday's haftorah of Isaiah 57-58.
"And if you offer your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul; then your light will shine in the darkness and the deepest gloom will be like the noon."
In the Hebrew, it is 58:10.
וְתָפֵק לָרָעֵב נַפְשֶׁךָ, וְנֶפֶשׁ נַעֲנָה תַּשְׂבִּיעַ; וְזָרַח בַּחֹשֶׁךְ אוֹרֶךָ, וַאֲפֵלָתְךָ כַּצָּהֳרָיִם.
The reason this verse speaks to me so profoundly- and this is without looking at the elaborations, explanations or commentaries to the verse- is because of the words used. Note that it does not say that one should offer food to the hungry but rather one's soul. Many times people are hungry for compassion, kindness or spirituality and these are not hungers that can be sated by anything less than the giving of a soul- and I have given my soul. I felt that God was comforting me. "You may have your sins- but you have given your soul- and I have seen it- I have witnessed it- and the strength of that soul outweighs the darkness of those sins. So be still, my daughter, for I have not left you yet."
The fact that the man who said Birkat Kohanim sounded exactly like my grandfather - he spoke with the same Chassidish pronounciation- made me feel like I was being blessed by my grandfather from beyond the grave through an emissary, which is especially important given that this is just before my wedding.
And the fact that a little old lady who survived Birkenau and showed me the numbers on her arm blessed me adds to that power. It is my custom always to ask survivors, especially those who remained religious, for blessings for I feel they have a merit that no one else can possibly attain unless they were burned in fire and tortured by water as one of God's chosen within His crucible.
God was close to me as He always is; I felt Him and I saw Him- in the faces of all those assembled, gathered only to do Yizkor. It is very powerful to me that even though one may not be at all religious still one comes to pray for the dead, for one's mother and father. It bespeaks a deep and inseparable bond between the parent and the child, a love that extends beyond death.
This should come as no surprise because King Solomon states that it is so.
See Song of Songs 8:6.
שִׂימֵנִי כַחוֹתָם עַל-לִבֶּךָ, כַּחוֹתָם עַל-זְרוֹעֶךָ--כִּי-עַזָּה כַמָּוֶת אַהֲבָה, קָשָׁה כִשְׁאוֹל קִנְאָה: רְשָׁפֶיהָ--רִשְׁפֵּי, אֵשׁ שַׁלְהֶבֶתְיָה. 6
Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave; the flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very flame of the LORD.
Love is as strong as death; this is why so many express their love by coming to Yizkor.
There is something absolutely haunting about the wailing cry, 'El Malei Rachamim.' I imagine that cry and see bodies piled up in pits, mass graves in Europe and I shudder in awe. It amazes me that man clings to God when God has hurt him- in the shadow of the death camps, in the darkness of the night, when no one else answers, all that we have is His. Our bodies? Our souls? They do not belong to us. We do His will for He gave us life; we try our hardest to do as He desires.
The part that touches me the most in the Shemoneh Esrei that we say on Yom Kippur is this paragraph:
"My God, before I was formed I was unworthy, and now that I have been formed, it is as if I had not been formed. I am dust in my life and will surely be son in my death. Behold- before You I am like a vessel filled with shame and humiliation. May it be Your will, Hashem, my God and the God of my forefathers, that I may not sin again. And what I have sinned before You, may You wipe away with Your abundant mercy, but not through suffering or serious illness."
The plea and the desire not to sin again before God again are a mixture of sweet and sad to me. This is everyone's most fervent wish- but in order not to sin one must know what the sins are. In a world that is very confusing with many divergent opinions it is hard sometimes to know if what one does, longs for, feels or acts upon is a sin or if it is not.
What I wish of God is to grant me the clarity to discern the sins from the good deeds so that I will then be able to fulfill this desire of not sinning again.
And may He shine His countenance down upon me like the sun, and my light and His will mingle and I shall be both awed and happy, cupped as I am within His Palm.