Before the gates close
Here we are gang, in the final countdown to Yom Kippur. I’m already getting anxious about whether this year’s fasting will be more or less difficult than last. Should I stash a banana somewhere handy just in case? Will I feel like crap in the morning after the evening the fast is broken? Notice, at this stage, the pedestrian nature of my concerns.
It hasn’t hit me yet – as it does annually in hour 20 or so of the YK marathon, as I stand pondering my various and sundry shortcomings and the fragile nature of human existence – that this could be the last one (year, that is)(God forbid) of my life. Because it always does hit me. Eventually, hunger and the familiar prayers force me to set aside my mind’s ramblings about whether I believe one iota in the heavenly books being inscribed with my fate. Eventually, I come up against reality. Book or not, where I will find myself next Yom Kippur may already be written.
I’ll put one foot in front of the other – and one day, I may walk in front of the wrong car. Or I may bump into a stranger in the supermarket, strike up a conversation, and find myself invited to meet their 3rd cousin Jon Stewart who wants to put a Torah blogger on his show (it could happen!). If I don’t get our back porch steps straightened out, it’s likely I’ll trip down them in the middle of winter and break my ankle. Or not. I can rest assured that good stuff will happen and not-good stuff will happen and most of it will be out of my control.
Call this out-of-our-control factor God or chance or life’s little surprises. Some of us will live this year and some of us (hopefully none of you) will die. Literally, metaphorically, and often for no logical reason. My sweet husband wrote a short mash-up inspired by a Zen song/teaching called the gatha on life and death. I offer it here:
May the voice of the shofar remind us:
Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time passes swiftly, and with it, our only chance.
Each of us must aspire to improve ourselves.
Know before Whom you stand!
Do not squander your life!
Do not squander my life. More desperate words could not be spoken — and appreciated. As I wrote elsewhere, I cherish the opportunity to tell myself the truth: I’m desperate and running way behind schedule and still need to start all over again (once again) trying to get it right.
So to you and yours — may you all be sealed in the Book of Life for a year of love, sweetness, and peace. See you on the other side of the fast.