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A Message from our High Holidays Rabbi Earl Kideckel - September 2018

Rabbi Earl Kideckel

Rose Zolondick died July 25, 2005. She was ninety-five years old when she passed away. A while back I came across her tombstone in Everett, MA. The top inscription was somewhat normal, except for the order of loved ones: “loving sister, aunt, mother, grandmother, great grandmother.” The bottom inscription reads “this kind and gentle soul was unhappy her entire life because of the evils that were done to her by those she was closest to.” I would have assumed that either Rose or her “loving” sister crafted the words for that stone. But actually, as I learned just a few months ago, it was created by her son. Imagine the pain she struggled with her entire life that her son had these words inscribed upon her stone for everyone to see when they passed by. For whom was the message intended - her family coming to visit another family member’s grave or was it for the passerby who happened to take time to read the stone. How tragic!

In the Talmud, one of the great rabbinic masters Raba suggested, “The length of life, children and sustenance depend not on merit but rather on mazal, luck. (Moed Kattan 28a). Rose was not one whose life can be characterized by mazal. According to Raba, that’s all that we can count on, having mazal.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, suggests that “according to Judaism, man’s mission in his world is to turn fate into destiny – an existence that is passive and influenced, to an existence that is active and influential; an existence of compulsion, perplexity, and speechlessness, to an existence full of will and initiative.” I hope he is saying that whatever we experience in life happens because of mazal, not good or bad. We don’t have the ability to alter our fate. We do have the power to improve it.

While we can certainly work to improve how we live with our own personal mazal, our tradition is also realistic. One aspect of our tradition that I like is that we don’t say in our prayers that we can erase our past. We simply cannot will the asterisks away. The statement of our prayers on the High Holy Days, is maavirin et roah hagzerah, the sting of the act and its consequence is “moved away.” It is not removed, just moved from our consciousness, allowing us to move forward in life.

In Jewish life we say two prayers each morning when we wake up. The first – “Dear God, the soul that You Adonai breathed within me is pure.” We take a deep breath into our lungs, we can feel that pureness. Every morning we have a new opportunity, despite yesterday’s asterisks to breathe fresh air into the world. God gives us that opportunity. We can recover, and remain recovering human beings. The second prayer is: Dear God: “Bring us not to trial or disgrace. And it continues on a few lines later … May we find grace, love, and compassion, in Your sight and in the sight of all who look upon us, this day and every day. Unfortunately, Rose Zolondick died at the age ninety-five never achieving that feeling. I pray that despite our own asterisks, we can achieve that breathe of life, each and every day. As we prepare for this New Year, may our lives be filled with mazal, so that when our loved ones one day will have etched onto the stone they place for us, honest words filled with love and contentment in life.

My wife Lisa and I look forward to spending these High Holy Days in Edmonton with you. We are grateful to the leaders of Beth Shalom Synagogue who invited us to be a part of your community.

Shana tova

Rabbi Kidekel

Wed, 24 April 2019 19 Nisan 5779