Yom Kippur

By Eric Burch

Delivered at First UU Congregation of Second Life

On Oct 9th, 2008

>> Chalice Lighting.

For every time we make a mistake and we decide to start again:
     We light this chalice.

For every time we are lonely and we let someone be our friend:
     We light this chalice.

For every time we are disappointed and we choose to hope:
     We light this chalice.

And a special candle lighting, repeated recently for the celebration of Yom Kippur.

Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam
asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav
v'tzivanu l'hadlik neir shel you hakippurim.

Blessed are You, our God, Creator of time and space,
who enriches our lives with holiness,
commanding us to kindle the Yom Kippur lights.

>> Reading

Here is an interpretation of the Hineni prayer
"Hineni" literally means "Here I Stand" and is said in Hebrew as part of the Yom Kippur service.

Here I stand
painfully aware of my flaws
quaking in my canvas shoes
and in my heart.

I'm here on behalf of this kahal
even though the part of me
that's quick to knock myself
says I'm not worthy to lead them.

All creation was nurtured
in Your compassionate womb!
God of our ancestors, help me
as I call upon your mercy.

Don't blame this community
for the places where I miss the mark
in my actions or my heart
in my thoughts or in our davening.

Each of us is responsible
for her own teshuvah.
Help us remember that
without recriminations.

Accept my prayer
as though I were exactly the leader
this community needs in this moment,
as though my voice never faltered.

Free me from my own baggage
that might get in the way.
See us through the rose-colored glasses
of Your mercy.

Transform our suffering into gladness.
Dear One, may my prayer reach You
wherever You are
for Your name’s sake.

All praise is due to You, Dear One
Who hears the prayers of our hearts.

--Rachel Barenblat

>>  Homily "Yom Kippur".

In the Jewish calendar the first ten days of the year, from the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah, through Yom Kippur, are the Days of Awe.
It is said that God has opened and is writing in The Book of Life those who have atoned for their sins in the last year.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is special, with many prayers and rituals all day at the synagogue
for at sundown the Book of Life is closed for the rest of the year.

In these High Holy Days, one is supposed to spend time thinking about those actions one
has commited to harm another, and also those inactions that have caused others to be harmed.
At this time everyone is to search out and ask forgiveness from those who have been harmed.
It is kind of neat: here is a time of the year when you are expected to go out and ask for forgiveness.
A society has identified a time when asking for forgiveness is expected and normal.

I'm not a Jew, but the time my friends take off these past few days gives me an opportunity to pause
and reflect on some of the things I've done in my life recently.
I do take this time of year to find a few people who I have harmed, explain why this time of year is
special to Jews, and ask to make amends with them.
With my wife, who thinks this is just a little bit silly, she knows this is a good time for us to go over the
state of our relationship.

In my real life church, we have our annual Service of Reconciliation, where we reflect on our actions of the last year.
All of us take a small stone as we enter the santuary, and spend time reflecting on our recent actions while holding that stone.
If, by about three-quarters of the way through the service, we think our names would be in the Book of Life, we can return the
stomes to a table in the santuary; if we think we have some more work to do, we keep the stones.
About half of the congregation returns the stones during the service.
While we reconcile with those we have harmed, we can carry the stone and return it to the church (we have a rock garden).

For myself, I returned the stone, though I did have one bit of work to do--here in Second Life, in fact.
The person whom I asked forgiveness a few days ago is familiar with the Days of Awe, and seemed amused that I asked
forgiveness for being very very annoying, but not really harmful.

The High Holy Days are a good time to go out of our way to ask for forgiveness;
there are thousands of years of tradition to cover our actions.
We have the entire calendar to use to make amends.

>>  Discussion.

How do we return to completeness after part of our soul is broken from our action or our inaction?
Can we use a Ritual of Reconciliation in our congregations?
Do you feel that avatars can cause as much real pain as a person, or are we just capable of being annoying and not much more?
How can we here in Second Life heal some of the hurt that has been done?

What do you think?

>>  Closing Words.

There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken,
A shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy
And a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space too vast for words
Through which we pass with each loss,
Out of whose darkness we are sanctified into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound whose serrated edges cut the heart
As we break open to the place inside which is unbreakable
And whole.
  -- Rashini

We are never complete.
We are never finished.
We are always yet to be.
May we always allow others to be,
and help and enable each other to grow toward all that we are capable of becoming.

May every sunrise hold more promise, every moonrise hold more peace.

Be well, the service is over... 
LeShana Haba BiYerushalayim!  Next Year In Jerusalem!

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