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Thought for the Day: Yom Kippur 2020

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May all of your offshoots be just like you!

On Sunday afternoon, the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, I will be officiating at an unprecedented national prayer service.

A highlight of Yom Kippur, the Yizkor, or Remembrance Service, provides us with the opportunity to pray for the souls of our dearly departed relatives. But, this year, due to the Coronavirus, there will be many who won’t be able to attend Synagogue, so we’ve arranged for Rabbis and Cantors from around the United Kingdom to come together for an online version to take place on the eve of the Festival.

Our Remembrance Service is an extraordinary connecting point between past, present and future generations. It reminds us of the deepest desire of our forebears that we should exemplify in our own lives the values that they stood and lived for and it empowers us to be worthy role-models for future generations to emulate.

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the legendary United States Supreme Court Justice, who passed away last week, was once asked what it was that gave her hope for the future, her reply was: my grandchildren. And her grandchildren have spoken about the privilege and responsibility they will now have to live up to the faith she placed in them.

The Talmud tells the story of a man who was travelling through a desert in the midst of the summer heat.  He was desperately tired, hungry and thirsty.  Fortuitously, he came across an oasis in which there was a beautiful tree.  He ate of its delicious fruit, drank from the water alongside it and rested under the protective cover of its boughs.  When he arose, feeling fully refreshed and rejuvenated, he asked, “In appreciation of this kindness, what blessing can I offer over this tree?  After all, it is already blessed with everything that any tree might wish for!”  And then, a thought crossed his mind. Turning to the tree he said, “May all of your offshoots be just like you.”

Our offshoots are all those whose lives we touch through our actions and words. In our constant quest to make a positive impact on our environment, we confer immortality upon our ancestors whose positive values have made us who we are, and we attain immortality of our own by inspiring others to take those same values and emulate them in their own unique ways.

As Ruth Bader Ginsburg said about life: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”