Repost: Ha-azinu

October 9, 2019 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Most years the Torah portion Ha-azinu (“Use your ears”) is read the week before Yom Kippur, but in this new year of 5780 it comes afterward.

I did not prepare for Yom Kippur this time, except to find a synagogue in Prague where my husband and I could go.  I did not review my deeds of the past year or determine where I had missed the mark.  I did not ask anyone for forgiveness (though when a friend reached out to me, I did have an honest conversation and forgive her, and I honor her for that).  I did not reconsider my relationship with God.

I was too busy moving and packing and planning for the big change in our lives, and then I was too busy with the beginning of our journey.

I have continued to say a few prayers every morning, and blessings before every meal, but I have not been to a Shabbat service for the past two months.

In Prague I have been grateful for all the Czechs who speak English, and for the English translations on some plaques, brochures, and menus.  I have also been surrounded by people speaking a language I cannot begin to understand, and writing in a language I can neither pronounce nor decipher.

Jerusalem Synagogue

But when we went to the Jerusalem Synagogue, and I saw Hebrew texts from the psalms on the walls.  I could read them!  Softly I began singing a psalm to myself, uplifted not only by the beautiful 1906 Neo-Moorish synagogue building, but by the words in the universal language of the Jewish religion.

On Yom Kippur, we went to a service led by a small congregation in the Maisel Synagogue, built in 1592 in the Renaissance style.  The building is part of the Jewish Museum except on Saturdays and Jewish holidays, when the Bejt Praha congregation uses it for its original purpose.  We will come back another day to tour the whole building and look and the displays, but on Yom Kippur we sat on folding chairs in the middle of the echoing central hall, and sang prayers.

Maisel Synagogue

Although the congregation had hired an American rabbi who spoke English, the prayer books were in Czech and Hebrew.  Whenever the rabbi or the cantor began to sing, we could find the right prayer in Hebrew.  Most of the melodies were also familiar.  We joined in the singing, and their community was also our community for a while.

I have been happy exploring Prague, not worrying about atonement, so I could not plead with God in the spirit of the holy day.  But praying in the old synagogue with other Jews brought me comfort and reminded me of God.

After Yom Kippur ended, I polished up my 2012 post on this week’s Torah portion, which considers meeting God in a desolate place without comfort, a place where we all find ourselves at some point in our lives.  Click on Ha-azinu: The Tohu Within, to read it.

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