#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 8: Hear


photo: Shema Israel – Ecoute, Israel – the first two words of the centerpiece Jewish prayer, day and night, and until the last moment to bear witness of the unicity of God

September 11th ~ In the rising of the sun and its going down,
We Remember Them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We Remember Them.

In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring.
We Remember Them.

In the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer,
We Remember Them.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn.
We Remember Them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We Remember Them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,
We Remember Them.

When we are lost and sick at heart,
We Remember Them.

When we have joys we yearn to share,
We Remember Them.

So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us.

~ Roland B. Gittelsohn, adapted

This year was a hot and beautiful day, unlike the crisp and bright perfect day that had started fifteen years ago, to evolve in a day that changed the century in the entire world for ever. We can remember each year in a similar way, and we can add remembrances and other memories that start to cling to the date, and we can hear the names, read one by one, of those lost on that fatal day, and some portraits be drawn by the loved ones who give flesh and tears to the name that they honoring publicly on that day.

The ceremony is slow and emotional. At the times the planes hit each tower, then at the times each tower collapses, we hear a bell, a gentle ringing, nothing stirring, not the sound of a shofar, just a delicate bell, and still, we wake up a conscious thought to stand and reflect on the beauty of life, the hopes and the yearning for peace.

At the end of the ceremony, officers play Taps as to send us back to life, always, to go back to doing the best we can to remember to be at peace with our loved ones and to be listening so that we can hear what the other is yearning for, which is never very different from what we are yearning for ourselves.


This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

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From Generation to Generation

Auschwitz_2013I knew that sending my son away for a defining journey accross the world was going to be emotional: I was prepared. I was very proud that he had chosen to undertake the pilgrimage to his roots, and to travel through Central Europe prior to his first visit to the Land of Israel. This program, called “NFTY-Israel L’Dor V’Dor”, from generation to generation, is designed to introduce the teens to their heritage, most of them being descendants of Jews coming from this area, Czekoslovakia, Ukraina, Lithuania, Poland… Many of them, too, having heard of the many family members who perished in the Nazi atrocities that took place on the very land they were going to visit seventy years later.

They are discovering how rich the Jewish life was prior to be decimated. The remnants are powerful, and no one can measure on paper how much emotion they carry. Because human life is stronger than just a story, it has a soul and a way to attach itself into symbols, and into the passing of these symbols into the very same rituals that we observe today: you go far away from home, and some of the things you see, names, places, signs, are strangely familiar and known.

Passage from the prayer R’tzei – mural from the preserved hidden synagogue in Terezin

The teens went to visit the camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau. They grew. They understood something that has no words to describe the experience. Each of them is going to process differently and make what they felt their own in their own way. Some took pictures, some wrote poems and shared, some kept silent and will talk about it later, some will never say anything about it, but still, they are transformed by the experience anyways and they are grown from it, like having received sprinkles of a spiritual shower that has been particularly attached to that place, so that the seeds of life that were planted there for the wrong reasons – hatred, fear, prejudice – grew into love, support, understanding: life.


This generation of teens is the very last one who will be able to hear the stories from those who were their age at the time: what they lived, what they did, and how they remember it and what happened to them since. Next generations will only hear from those who were told the stories, and decided to pass them on.

But, we Jews, have done that for centuries. We know how to pass stories that stay alive. I am thankful for my community, for my Jewish family to allow this adventure to go on for the better, for life. Whenever something difficult is ahead, we know we can face it and transform it into hope and growth.

To quote one of the groups’chaperones, Rosanne Selfon, “Forever changed, but forever Jewish”.

Those Teens were traveling with NFTY in Israel – an organization providing Summer Israel experiences for teens.

Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning for humanity

A moment for Sandy Hook

Mug shot of the 27 victims of the Newtown, CT massacre

“The light of life is a finite flame.
Like the Shabbat candles,
life is kindled, it burns, it glows,
it is radiant with warmth and beauty.
But soon it fades, its substance is consumed,
and it is no more.

In light we see;
in light we are seen.
The flames dance
and our life burns down and gutters.
There is an end to the flames.
We see no more
and are no more seen,
yet we do not despair,
for we are more than a memory
slowly fading into the darkness.
With our lives we give life.
Something of us can never die:
we move into the eternal cycle
of darkness and death,
of light and life.”

~ in Meditations from Mishkan T’filah, a Reform Siddur