Friday, October 7, 2011

Erev Yom Kippur in Nebraska

Preparing for Yom Kippur is intense no matter who you are.  There are many preparations to be done, both preparing for the meal before Yom Kippur as well as all the mental preparation necessary before going into the day of judgement.  As rabbi, I have a few extra responsibilities like preparing sermons for tonight and tomorrow and making sure the shul is set for the big day.

This yom kippur I had some extra things that made the day really interesting. 

First, tomorrow in Lincoln Nebraska the Nebraska Cornhuskers are playing a big game.  Many Jew were going to have to make the choice between their religion and their football team.  A member of my shul, recognizing that many Jews might skip Yom Kippur entirely and go to the stadium early before the game, hired a Rabbi to come to Nebraska for Yom kippur to run religious programming all day on the college campus.  The event made the front page of the Omaha World Herald today.  In the morning I helped the Rabbi prepare for his big day.  

Today I also had a funeral.  I do many funerals unfortunately, but not like this.  The woman who died was born in 1937.  She was institutionalized at the age of 5 years old and remained there for the rest of her life.  Yesterday we received a call from an attorney who was placed in charge of her.  The woman died late Wednesday night.  She had no known relatives.  No friends.  Nobody in the world even knew she was there.  I had never heard of or met this woman before and I found that according to whatever instructions were left by her last family member, I as the Rabbi of beth Israel synagogue was responsible for taking care of her burial.  This was a true met mitzva - the greatest of all mitzvot that a person can do.  The Talmud says that if the high priest is going to do the Yom kippur service on the holiest day of the year and  the opportunity arises where he has to perform a burial for a met mitzvah he is supposed to abandon the Yom Kippur service and take care of the met mitzvah.  It is the most important of all mitzvot.  With Ari and the Rabbi going to Lincoln we buried the met and had the privilege of performing this mitzvah.  May this woman with no family rest in peace.

From the funeral we went to visit the grave of Zvi Hirsh Grodzinsky.  He was a cousin of the great Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky from Europe before World War II.  The Rabbi Grodzinsky of Omaha was a prolific author on Jewish law and there are a couple of people who are in the process of publishing his unpublished manuscripts.  I brought the latest volume that was recently published on the laws of yayin nesech and we learned a halachah and said some tehilim at his grave.  I then entered the grave into resting spot so others can find it.

Then, as I do every year before Yom Kippur, Ari and I visited all the hospitals and Ari sang Kol Nidrei for all of the Jewish patients who will not be able to make it to shul tomorrow.  

Finally, after a long day of preparations I have an opportunity to prepare for tomorrow, to go over my sermons and to make sure that I am familiar with the davening for tomorrow.  May Hashem listen to all of our prayers and may we all be inscribed in the book of life.

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