Saturday, October 1st | 6 Tishri 5783

August 30, 2013 9:40 am

On Rosh Hashana, Mourning, and the Yom Kippur War, Revisited

avatar by Ronn Torossian

All illustration of Jews praying in synagogue on Yom Kippur. Photo: Maurycy Gottlieb.

1. With the Jewish high holy days approaching, I’m nervous at the realization that this year will be the first year that I will stay inside the synagogue during the Yizkor memorial services because my mother, Penny Waga, passed away a few months ago. It’s just such a scary thought as I remember so many years that I stood outside of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale waiting for my mother as she said Kaddish for her parents. I suppose it’s the way of the world, but it’s a very scary thought – and one day my kids will say Kaddish for me.

I vividly remember last year singing in shul “On Rosh Hashanah we will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur it will be sealed; how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die…” and this year, indeed, my mother died.

2. With Rosh Hashanah almost upon us, I wonder, outside of the Orthodox world, how many Jews are excited about the Jewish New Year the same way that they are excited about “New Year’s Eve” on January 1?  I personally know so many Jews who are traditional, were raised in Jewish homes, care about Jewish issues – yet don’t have synagogues they are involved with or have a relationship with.

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So many of our communal organizations and rabbis fail miserably at outreach to constituencies who could be involved and excited about Judaism. A truly scary thought for anyone who thinks about the fate of American Jewry. I feel it is hard to be invigorated about the American Jewish future outside of Orthodoxy.

3. Recently I read a must-read book, “The Eve of Destruction: The Untold Story of the Yom Kippur War” by Howard Blum. The book is an account of Israel’s Yom Kippur War of 1973 – when the Arab world launched a surprise attack against Israel, which saw the Jewish state suffer immense losses. The book tells personal stories and reveals political insider information, and there are some amazing revelations. The book claims that Israel had a plan to launch nuclear weapons to destroy Egypt and Syria if indeed Israel was destroyed – and that Golda Meir prepared suicide cyanide pills to take if the State was destroyed. Scary, intense reading.

And on the heels of reading that book, and with what is occurring on Israel’s borders today – with the Syrians and Egyptians killing one another and Iran on the way to being armed with nuclear weapons – how can anyone expect Israel to sacrifice more for peace? Even if there was a trusted Palestinian Arab partner (there isn’t), how can one expect peace in a region where – TODAY – thousands of Arabs are being slaughtered by Arabs. Will they bless Jews with peace as they kill one another? Doubtful indeed.

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