Reflections on Yom Kippur

Reflections on Yom Kippur
by Yael Bendat-Appell, Camper Intake Coordinator

I moved to New York City after graduating college. It was August, 2001. Moving to New York City is inevitably a transformative life event; moving to New York City three weeks before 9/11 transformed me beyond all expectations.

I held myself together through the initial shock and trauma of living in that city during its most devastating moment. It wasn’t until a few weeks later, during my first Yom Kippur in New York, that my heart cracked open and the floodgates lifted.

I recall with total clarity the moment that the shaliach tzibur began almost inaudibly trembling the words of the Leader’s Prayer, הנני העני ממעש (hineni he’ani mimas), which is recited immediately before mussaf. My attention was drawn to the meaning of that prayer in a way it had not been before. Its essence is an expression of profound humility in response to the enormity of the task of giving voice to the community’s prayers, pleas, hopes and, in some circumstances, pain.

“Here I stand, empty of deeds, in turmoil, fearing the One who sits enthroned…I have come here to stand up and plead with You for Your people Israel…even though I am not worthy or fitting to come.”

Since that Yom Kippur, the Leader’s Prayer continues to be one of the most powerful liturgical moments of the High Holidays for me. I experience it as a profound personal reminder to try to be a shlicha tzibur, a voice speaking on behalf of others *even* despite feeling unworthy or not up to the task. It reminds me to think about which communities might feel voiceless. It reminds me to ask whose needs need to be raised up and magnified. What prayers can I give voice to for the sake of bettering our society? And when I do find those opportunities to give voice, do I do so with humility?

We live in a world, in a country, in which many people are suffering– for many different reasons. As we approach this Day of Awe, let’s each commit to try to be shlichei tzibur for goodness and action and justice in our daily lives.

“…for the sake of all the righteous and honest, innocent and upright people, and for the sake of the glory of Your great and mighty and awesome name. For you listen with compassion to the prayers of Your people Israel. Blessed are You, who listens to prayers.”

ברוך אתה ה׳ שומע תפילה
Baruch atah Adonai shomei’a t’filah.

G’mar Chatima Tova.

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