Two of the stained glass windows of Renanim synagogue in Hechal Shlomo, Jerusalem.
In a few hours Israel enters into both the Sabbath and Yom Kippur.
Everything shuts down and it gets very quiet all over the country.
This Day of Atonement is a time of intense prayer, total fasting for 25 hours, soul-searching, and repentence for many Jews.
(For many secular Jews, it is a time to stroll down the empty highways and for the children to bike ride or skate in the car-free streets.)
As the beautiful Yom Kippur window shows, the Gates of Repentence are open.
Above Jerusalem is the traditional image of God's Book of Life, open, with quill ready.
The long liturgy of the evening and of the following day centers on our plea that he will inscribe us in the Book of Life and seal it for another year.
The Rosh Hashana window (please do enlarge it) quotes from the moving and powerful piyyut (liturgical poem) Unetaneh Tokef which is sung in every synagogue both on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
כָל בָּאֵי עולָם יַעַבְרוּן לְפָנֶיךָ כִּבְנֵי מָרון. כְּבַקָּרַת רועֶה עֶדְרו. מַעֲבִיר צאנו תַּחַת שִׁבְטו .כֵּן תַּעֲבִיר וְתִסְפּר וְתִמְנֶה וְתִפְקד נֶפֶשׁ כָּל חָי. וְתַחְתּךְ קִצְבָה לְכָל בְּרִיּותֶיךָ. וְתִכְתּב אֶת גְּזַר דִּינָם:
בְּראשׁ הַשָּׁנָה יִכָּתֵבוּן וּבְיום צום כִּפּוּר יֵחָתֵמוּן כַּמָּה יַעַבְרוּן וְכַמָּה יִבָּרֵאוּן מִי יִחְיֶה וּמִי יָמוּת. מִי בְקִצּו וּמִי לא בְקִצּו מִי בַמַּיִם. וּמִי בָאֵשׁ מִי בַחֶרֶב. וּמִי בַחַיָּה מִי בָרָעָב. וּמִי בַצָּמָא מִי בָרַעַשׁ. וּמִי בַמַּגֵּפָה מִי בַחֲנִיקָה וּמִי בַסְּקִילָה מִי יָנוּחַ וּמִי יָנוּעַ מִי יִשָּׁקֵט וּמִי יִטָּרֵף מִי יִשָּׁלֵו. וּמִי יִתְיַסָּר מִי יֵעָנִי. וּמִי יֵעָשֵׁר מִי יִשָּׁפֵל. וּמִי יָרוּם וּתְשׁוּבָה וּתְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רעַ הַגְּזֵרָה
"All mankind will pass before You like members of the flock.
Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living;
and You shall apportion the fixed needs of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict. "
The piyyut is traditionally attributed to a medieval Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, who spoke the words while he was being martyred. More here.
You can read its translation in the ArtScroll Machzor.
Here is part of it:
"On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed
how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created;
who will live and who will die;
who will die at his predestined time and who before his time;
who by water and who by fire,
who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst,
who by storm, who by plague,
who by strangulation, and who by stoning.
Who will rest and who will wander,
who will live in harmony and who will be harried,
who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer,
who will be impoverished and who will be enriched,
who will be degraded and who will be exalted.
But REPENTANCE, PRAYER and CHARITY
[tshuvah, tfilah, tzedaka]
Remove the evil of the Decree!
Don't you love that idea that by our re-turning, praying, and doing acts of kindness we can change everything?!
Before shutting down the computer for its yearly day of rest, I leave you with the traditional blessings--Shabbat shalom (Sabbath peace), tsom kal (easy over the fast), and Gmar chatima tova (May you be have a good inscription)!
P.S. My little grandson made his own ram's horn for these Days of Awe!
Here is a short and sweet video of Dean blowing the shofar.