As I told you I would, I visited my grandparents’ graves for Kever Avot, “honoring our ancestors,” the morning of the Emmys. This service is held at my grandparents’ cemetery on the Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which this year landed on Emmy Sunday.
My fancy assistant Brandon drove me (since I can’t yet drive because of my accident) and in addition to being Brandon’s first Kever Avot experience, it was also his first trip to an Orthodox Jewish cemetery. The “refreshments” they served before the service did not disappoint, and Brandon really enjoyed what I think to be the finest kosher bakery cookie in existence: the lacy one dipped in chocolate with the whole hazelnuts in it. Delicious.
The service was led by a New York-accented Modern Orthodox-looking Rabbi in his late 50s or early 60s and he gave a really nice sermon about forgiveness between God and humans (easy) and human and humans (very very hard). I went to my grandparents’ graveside and had some really meaningful time there. It was a wonderful way to start the year, not to mention the crazy Emmy day.
The Jewish New Year is joyous and exciting. But as we head out of the Yizkor (Remembrance of the Dead service) of Yom Kippur and into the fall holidays of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret I can’t help but think of the significance of the Yizkor experience and how Judaism connects new beginnings to endings. Judaism rarely has us simply kicking up our heels just because; we always seem to incorporate into all holidays and celebrations the notion and acknowledgment that life is uncertain, the Temple is still in need of rebuilding and our world is still in need of repair.
I wrote the forward to a book just published called Faith Unravels and it feels like the time is now to discuss it. It was written by a friend of mine who I met at UCLA Hillel when he was a Rabbinic intern there. The book is a very personal and beautiful memoir that deals squarely with death and feelings about death from the perspective of a Rabbi who lost two people close to him and felt his faith, well…unravel. I’m including the website here and I strongly recommend this book for anyone curious about Jewish perspectives on death, rituals of grief and mourning, or how a devoted and thoughtful Rabbi handles doubt, grief, and life in the face of death. It is not depressing per se, but it is deep, emotional, and very moving (Spoiler alert: he gets his faith back).
I love celebrating the start of the Jewish New Year, but I also like to make this time of the year one of reflection and depth, and not just on Yom Kippur. This book helped me do that in a very powerful way. I hope you will check it out and I hope you will be as moved by it as I was.