A Yom Kippur Message from Mimi… September/26/2020 Tishrei/8/5781

Dear Sisters,

I don’t know how many of you watched the live Ishai Ribo concert that took place last night on the rooftop of Aish Jerusalem.  It was really fantastic!  If you missed it you can still watch the recording of it on aish.com.  Ishai is an extremely talented singer/songwriter.  He sings in Hebrew, but his songs are so beautiful even if you do not understand what he is saying you can still appreciate them.
One idea that kept getting mentioned during the concert was how, in normal times, the Kotel plaza this time of year, even in the middle of the night, is filled with tens of thousands of people.  Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we say special prayers called Selichot, and Sephardic Jews come to the Kotel in droves after midnight to sing these moving prayers together.  Now, in our turbulent corona times, the plaza was almost empty.  They said there were maybe 45 people there in total.  Every speaker at the concert, the MC Yossie Friedman, Eitiel Goldvicht the speaker, everyone could not get over the scene of the empty Kotel plaza.  It was just heartrending to witness a place that should be packed with people stand so desolate.
Every one of us in the past 6 months has expressed, in one way or another, how we are living in completely insane times.  Life has entered a totally new “normal,” and literally nothing is the same.  We rewrote the rules for just about everything.  We all agree that one of the areas that has been most hard-hit is religious practice.  Families not able to be together for Shabbat, holidays celebrated alone at home, no in-person services, are just some of the things that have changed drastically.  We Jews usually celebrate in large social gatherings and all that has come to a grinding halt.  (I am sure you also all agree with me when I say I am so, so tired of all of it…)  I, and I am sure you as well, have bemoaned this fact many times.  The thought that we are experiencing unprecedented circumstances and celebrating our most precious moments in most unusual ways has been expressed by me over and over again.
And then Ishai said something last night that threw my thoughts off kilter.  He shared how he was standing down at the Kotel earlier that night when he had a mind-blowing thought.  Imagine, he shared, the Jews who lived in Israel in Temple times.  All Jews lived in Israel during those days; there was no such thing as a diaspora.  Then one day the Babylonians came along and they destroyed our precious Temple and sent all those Jews out to exile.  Picture in your mind all the Jews in Israel, on the 9th day of the month of Av, as they watched their (our!) holy Temple burn to the ground, and are forced out of their homeland, beaten and humiliated.  Only 2 short months later those same Jews stood as we do today, in the last few hours before Yom Kippur.  What were they saying to each other?  What were their thoughts at that time?  The same as ours today!!!!  How can we have Yom Kippur without our Temple?  How will we be able to experience the solemnity of the day by ourselves?  Will it even feel at all like Yom Kippur?  We are living in insane times, we cannot wait until they end!
This idea completely blew me away.  We are all talking about these “unprecedented” times.  Some of us are consumed with thoughts of the difficulties of our situation, how we have never, ever experienced Jewish life in these ways.  Only, as Ishai pointed out, it is simply not true.  We Jews have lived through unprecedented times, and we have done it over and over again.  We witnessed the destruction of 2 Temples in Jerusalem, we experienced pogroms and blood-libels, we lived through holocausts.  Jewish life and religious practice have been hard-hit over and over again in our history.  We have conducted clandestine bris milahs and weddings with barely a minyan in attendance.  We have fasted on Yom Kippur in places where it did not seem that G-d even existed.  This ain’t our first rodeo.
The good news is that we got through it then, and we will get through this once more.  As they say in Chinese, this,, too, shall pass.  We lived to see the rebuilding of the Temple once before, we will see the rebuilding of all that is dear and precious to us once more.  This Yom Kippur may be celebrated in the sanctuary of our living rooms, as opposed to the sanctuary in shul, but that’s ok.  We have fasted on Yom Kippur in very trying conditions in the past, this is but another one of those times.  It’s ok.  We got this.
As I go into Yom Kippur this year, I plan to bring this idea with me.  Yes, times are insane.  Yes, everything will feel different.  But we can and will prevail.  We have done it in the past, and we will do it again now.  We got this.
I want to take this opportunity to ask all of you for mechila, forgiveness, if I have ever done anything to hurt any of you.  I certainly never intended to do so, and I hope you can forgive me for it.  I love all of you and wish all of you a Gmar Chasima Tova, to be sealed in the Book of Life, with happiness and health for all.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and a meaningful Yom Kippur,
Mimi David