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Yom Kippur in Sudbury

Monday, 23 September, 2013 - 6:17 pm

Yom Kippur at Chabad of Sudbury was marked by a great turnout at the services and with a healthy attendance at every part of the Yom Kippur Service. While the children enjoyed their own service and games and activities, the adults enjoyed Yom Kippur and its meaning, along with spirited prayer services, meaningful anecdotes, and uplifting messages.

The Neilah Prayer at the end of Yom Kippur marked the climax of the service, with a full house, and a lively melody before the final blast of the Shofar marking the end and completion of Yom Kippur.

A great Break the Fast to finalize the day made for a great ending for a powerful, solemn, meaningful and uplifting day.

If you would like to read the Yizkor Sermon, it is below.

 

Yizkor: Remembering & the Power of Sacrifice

Yizkor: What do we Remember

Today one of the most moving moments of Yom Kippur is marked by the solemn Yizkor Prayer. In this prayer we remember our loved ones, we remember our parents who lovingly bathed, diapered and pampered us, the parents who cuddled with us when we had discomfort or had a new tooth, or the parents who gave us a hug when we needed it and when we didn’t.

We remember our grandparents and the love and nurture that they gave to us and the beautiful values that they stood for. We remember our great grandparents and generations of our ancestors who lived meaningful and sometimes very challenging lives, yet despite all they went through they stayed true to who they were and their Jewish identity.

We will remember Jews who were killed throughout history who refused to budge on their Jewish faith. We will remember the Jews of 2000 years ago who were killed by the Romans.
We will remember the Jews who were killed by the Crusaders.
We will remember the Jews who were killed by the Cossacks and the Pogroms
We will remember the 6 Million who were killed just 65 years ago in the Holocaust
We will remember over 20,000 Jews who have been killed defending Israel or in terrorist attacks in the last 65 years.
And we will remember our loved ones who are no longer with us in this world.

Why does one remember?

Remembering is important for so many reasons.

Remembering is Important since remembering in itself is something very powerful and important for ourselves.

Remembering is Important since it pays honor to the memory of those who we are remembering.

Remembering is Important since they contain powerful emotions which are important to express and think about.

Remembering is Important since our memories actually help shape, influence and mold who we are and who we become.

Why do we Remember on the Holiest Day of the Jewish Calendar

Today is Yom Kippur the holiest day of the year, it’s the Day of Judgment, and it’s a time that is spent praying, reflecting, and connecting with G-d. It is a day when the Jewish people are in the holiest state and purest state of mind as they celebrate this holy day, and it is on this day that we recite the Yizkor Memorial service.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this is due to the additional and vital element that Judaism teaches about remembrance. Judaism teaches us that in addition to all of the powerful aspects of remembering that we mentioned before, the bottom line of remembrance is action!

Judaism teaches that as one remembers their loved ones and of whom they were, one should also think of all the good things that they did for you, for G-d and for the community, and think how we too can inspire ourselves to act by remembering who they were and what they stood for.

Yizkor is a time that we think of the Jewish Journey through history that at times was bright and shiny and at times was dark and gloomy. At times it was marked by abundance and success and at times it was awfully bloody and brutal. As we recite Yizkor, and we acknowledge and thank our parents and ancestors and remember that if not for them and their determination, who knows if we would be here today and where the Jewish community would stand, we are also being reminded of the call to action for us to continue being the torch bearers of Judaism and for G-d that they worked so hard to preserve.

Yizkor is a timeless message that helps impart the values, faith, and Judaism of the past, to the present and ultimately to the future.

Yizkor causes us to:                         think and reflect,

to feel and engage,

and ultimately to act and to do.

Judaism’s Responsibilities, Actions and Life can be daunting

As we think about our parents and what they did for us, we think about our own responsibilities to ensure that our children will love Judaism, live Judaism, and have a deep and meaningful relationship with G-d. This thought of this responsibility can be daunting and challenging, and it it is easy to become overwhelmed and just say “forget about it”.

Yet Yom Kippur we remind ourselves, that we are here in this world for a purpose, and we have a job to do. We remind ourselves that every action that we do to live a life that is more G-dly and more meaningful, every moment that we share and include our children in the actions of Judaism, every moment that we exercise a moment of self-control with something we shouldn’t do, or every moment that we push ourselves to do an additional Mitzvah and good deed, are priceless in their value and their endurance is eternal.

Yet I want to share with you a powerful anecdote which perhaps reminds us of the power of our actions and what we choose to do.

Avigdor Kahalani & The Battle for Northern Israel

Today, Israel marks forty years since the Yom Kippur War in 1973.  It was a terrible war that began as millions of Jews were marking the holiest day of the Jewish Calendar. On the Northern Front on the Golan Heights on the Syrian border the lone force standing between the Syrians and Israel’s possible capture was the IDF’s 77th Armored Battalion, This Battalion was commanded by 29-year-old Lt. Col. Avigdor Kahalani who was the son of Immigrants from Yemen. In 1967 he received horrific burns in a tank battle during the Six-Day War, yet he continued to stay on in the IDF and eventually he became a Battalion Commander in the Tank Brigades.

The Israeli Air force was having a very tough time defending the Israeli lines due to the terrible Anti-Aircraft Fire and the Israeli ground troops were facing opposing numbers that were ten times their size in strength and numbers, Things were looking terrible and getting gloomier and gloomier, and then on the fourth day of battle the Syrians launched a new and massive attack. Hundreds of modern Russian made tanks began moving up from the bottom of the valley hoping to take higher ground. At that point, the Israeli forces in the area only had about 40 tanks against 500 Syrian tanks. The odds were staggering, it looked bleak, the soldiers had hardly any more strength left in their bones and it looked like they were going forward on an invincible march.

If the Syrians were to gain access to the plateau, they would have been able to spread out their forces and control the central Golan Heights. From there, it would have been easy to penetrate even deeper into Israel and put the country at risk.

Kahalani was sent to the valley in a last-ditch effort to stem the Syrian advance. Calling his men to join him in a rush towards the enemy, he was shocked to find that a commander’s worst nightmare had come true: he was moving forward alone. Physically and emotionally at the end of their rope, the men had simply not responded.  When Kahalani’s tank reached the crest of the hill, he found himself face-to-face with three Syrian tanks. Incredibly, his crew managed to destroy first one tank then another a mere fifty meters away. As a third tank aimed its cannon in Kahalani’s direction, his guns jammed. Nevertheless, the Syrian tank burst into flames, hit by Israel troops who had finally rallied to his support.

The battle raged all day long until the Syrians, who suffered their own heavy losses, finally retreated, leaving behind 260 wrecked tanks, 500 armored personnel carriers and numerous other vehicles. The burning smoking hulks littered the battlefield that would become known as Emek Ha-Bacha – The Valley of Tears.

The surviving tankers of the 7th Armored Brigade had been in combat for more than 50 straight hours. For his actions, Oz 77 Commander Kahalani was awarded the Medal of Valor, Israel’s highest combat decoration.  Kahalani is the embodiment of an individual who, despite overwhelming odds, through sheer heroic courage, gritty determination and inspirational leadership moved himself and the soldiers under his command to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and emerge victorious.

Kahalani was amazing since he stemmed the Syrian onslaught and thank G-d he was able to hold off the Syrian advance and save Israel. He seemed to have had every reason to quit after his first set of injuries, and every reason to not engage the Syrians due to the terrible odds that looked insurmountable, yet he stayed on and led a charge even when no one else was following him.

Our Challenges and Version of This

We too have our challenges, we have so many things that we are seeking to give our children while we seek to earn a living, make ends meet and live a normal and relaxing life. Making Judaism exciting and central to our lives can seem challenging and difficult; at times it might even seem to be too hard and why bother. Yet truth to be told, every time we push ourselves to do a Jewish action and Mitzvah, every time we are driving our child to Hebrew School, every time we are celebrating Shabbat at our home, every time we are thinking about how and what we eat, and every time we give some extra money to charity, and every time we do any other Mitzvah, we too are like Avigdor Kahalani, except he did it for Israel and we are doing it for our children and ourselves.

Avigdor could have sat there contemplating and reflecting on the tragic situation and the hopelessness of the battle and the course of history may have been very different than it turned out. Avigdor instead took actions and did the right thing even when the odds didn’t make sense, and thankfully, this turned the tide of the war. One individual and one choice changed the course of history for millions of our brethren.

Today as we do the important job of remembering where we came from, who our parents and ancestors were, and think of the Jewish martyrs through history, it is important and vital to use Yom Kippur and its awesome power to translate that into actions, into an unbreakable commitment and pledge to live a Jewish life of meaning and actions.

When we do that our Yizkor is the most potent and meaningful that it could ever be.

Fight with Joy

About 90 years ago, there were many Jewish people who were losing their jobs each Friday in NY and elsewhere due to their refusal to work on Shabbos, the Jewish day of Rest. One colleague recounted what his grandfather told him about this time period and what it was like to come home and find yourself evicted and all your possessions on the street due to your parent’s commitment to keep the Shabbos. Among those people there was a person by the name of Nissan Filtchik who lived in NY. Each week when it came Friday and he was asked whether he would be coming to work the next day, he would politely explain that it is Shabbos tomorrow and it is a day of rest and he was promptly fired.

He suffered, never knew what next week would be, if they would have money, and had a very challenging situation to deal with while he tried to raise his family and maintain his Jewish identity. He easily could have caved and given in but he didn’t. Yet that it not what I want to bring out, what I want to bring out is what he would come home and tell his family each week when he lost his job. 

He would come home Friday night around the Shabbat Table and gather his children around him, and tell them “children, today I had the merit to lose my job. You know why? Not because I stole, not because I had a fight, not because I wasn’t doing a good job, but because we are so lucky and are trying so hard to honor G-d’s Shabbat and the Jewish day of rest”. He would then gather his children around him and say let’s dance and celebrate that we have this special day of rest called Shabbos.

He may have suffered but he showed his children the joy and love for Judaism not the resentment that he could have easily had. Guess what, his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are all active and involved Jews to this day. His love and passion and not the Kvetch were what made his challenges and struggles as a Jew not minimize in any way his children’s passion and love for Judaism, and instead he used that experience to teach them to love it even more.

Conclusion

Yizkor is remembering, Yizkor is reflecting, Yizkor is emotions, but Yizkor is a call to action, it is a call to us to continue the work of hundreds of generations before us, Yizkor is a call to continue to push ourselves to be a better Jew, to be a better parent, and push ourselves even if it involves some sacrifice, and Yizkor it is a call to continue dealing with our challenges with determination and joy.

This kind of Yizkor is bound to cause success not only in remembering, but also in transmitting the values and heritage of the past to the present and future!

 

(The part regarding Kahalani is adapted and based on an article from the Times of Israel). 

 

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