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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Who writes the Book of Life?

It seems as if our year unfolds to the panorama that is Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. 

We don our nicest clothes, hoping to look our best.  Hoping to sing our best.  

The High Holy Days is the "Super Bowl" for cantors.  There's no way around it.  

Each note and each measure of music reflecting something important: the text, the words, the liturgy of our Machzor.  The melodies and words range from familiar, comforting and wholesome to troubling, stark and obtuse.  We're reminded over and over that our prayers are important and that our future is somehow being written in the Book of Life.  

But what does that mean?  What book are we talking about here? What does it mean to be sealed?

For me, it's the book of my heart.  I am given the chance to reflect - the instruction to reflect.  I am given the opportunity to try to understand my place in the world, in the community, in relationships... And, I am given the chance - the instruction - to look inside myself. To attempt to reconcile my strengths, weaknesses, troubles and gifts within me. Then I can stand taller in the relationships, the community and world and I seek to understand.  

The prayers of the High Holy Days are meant to shake the dust off of our souls.  Some of the melodies are powerful and "in your face," while others are soothing and plaintive.  For me, the range of melodies reflect and mirror our range of emotions.  The words and music set the limits and boundaries for us to bounce between in our lives the rest of the year.  

Sometimes we need to be angry - our prayers reflect that.  Sometimes we need to be declarative - our prayers reflect that, too.  Sometimes we need to receive more than we give - our prayers help us strive for that balance. Sometimes we need to know the limits of our imbalance to feel any sense of balance at all.  Our prayers and our music reflect that struggle as much as they reflect the peace seems to slip through our fingers.  
We bring our best to the High Holy Days perhaps because when we look in the mirror, we can be just a little more like the person we wish to see. 

Cantor Seth Warner
4 Elul 5774

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