Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, September 30, 2022 / 5 Tishrei 5783
Summary: This year, I am changing the format of Oasis Songs for the month of Elul and part of Tishrei by focusing on a quote from a notable Jewish figure. Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur is a fascinating French rabbi and author. Next September, the first English translation of one of her books, Living with Our Dead, will be published. Rabbi Horvilleur is one of our profound modern teachers on death, an honorific that devolved on her because her family survived the Holocaust, and because her congregational work places her in close proximity to death. One of the factors that makes her comfortable with death is that she exists in and defends “liminal spaces, those universes that exist” between the walled camps that define so much of intellectual and social life today.
Reading Time: One minute
“Is it possible to grasp how to die? Yes, on the condition of not refusing fear, of being ready, like Moses, to turn around to see the future. The future is not in front of us, but behind, in the traces of our steps on the ground of a mountain that we have just climbed, traces in which those who follow us and survive us will read what we are not yet given to see there.” -Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur
During the ten days that run from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, we find ourselves poised on the strange border between life and death, between the past, present, and future. Introspection, properly understood, allows us to mine that fertile ground as we grasp that part of our heritage remains unborn. The fear of death undoubtedly has a biological component, yet it is also fueled by our anxiety that we will completely disappear; therefore, our existence, even while we live, lacks durable meaning. Rabbi Horvilleur highlights how deeply everything, everyone, and “everytime” are interwoven. Every one of us is part of the great chain of being; our actions today are the bedrock of the future. This hopeful truth strikes me every time I see a great-grandparent with a great-grandchild. There’s an easy calm in those moments that calls out to us that we matter; this is something that even death can’t take away.
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