Did you notice Jonah’s pain over the loss of the vine that had shielded him from the sun for one day? He was so pained by this loss that he wanted to die. Jonah had also wanted to die when he realized that the people of Ninevah, who had listened to him and turned from their evil ways, had been spared death and destruction.
Jonah was a prophet who prophesied accurately and who successfully saved an entire city, a large city, and yet he tried to flee from his responsibilities, tried to sleep through disaster, and finally, in the belly of the great fish, he recognized that there was no running from one’s duties.
But he was never happy about it, except maybe that one moment under the shade of the vine.
We know nothing of Jonah’s early life, how his call came about.
But we can also feel Jonah’s pain, and know that somewhere along the line, he was wounded. Wounded so deeply that when things don’t go his way, his response is that he would rather die. That’s got to be a deep wound indeed.
One day a couple of weeks ago, one of you posted a quote from Rumi on your Facebook page (take a moment to marvel at the juxtaposition of Facebook, that very 21st century invention, wowing us with quotes from a 13th century Sufi mystic). This quote took my breath away: “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”
Contemporary folk singer Leonard Cohen echoes Rumi in his song, Anthem:
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Those of us here for Yizkor, here to take the time to remember our loved ones, all of us have wounds or cracks from our losses. Some of them are new, some are older. Some feel new, even with years gone by.
When we pretend the wound is not there, when we try to cover it up, it doesn’t disappear. It will open up again somehow. Even when we think it’s scarred over, it is not so hard to open up again, exposing us in all our vulnerability.
Sometimes that exposure hurts so much that we, like Jonah, feel like we want to die. We know how hard it is to do the work again to heal over.
And that’s where the magic of Rumi’s thought comes in – The wound is where the light enters you.
If we imagine that sitting with the wound in its exposed state is not such a bad thing, but is indeed the opportunity for the healing light to enter, then we may not revel in its pain, but we can find hope in its healing power.
That’s what Yizkor is about. It’s about letting the light in, exposing ourselves, four times a year, to the pain of our loss, at partly so that the pain doesn’t seep out or spill over the rest of the time. Our ancient rabbis, and the Baal Shem Tov, in the story I shared last night, taught that our broken hearts are our most perfect offering. Being whole—shalem, from the same root as shalom—is what we seek, but only after we have recognized those parts of us that are broken, and let the light enter us. Like the king’s son, to enter the inner most sanctuary of our souls, we have to carry the pieces of our hearts. Each broken piece. Each one. Being whole, indeed, does not mean being perfect, it means being able to put together our brokenness.
Many of us make it through most of our lives at least largely together. We go to work, laugh with our families, ski, snowboard, hike, run rivers, play mah jongg, pay our bills. But then something will happen: we’ll see someone who reminds us of a loved one who died, or we’ll watch a movie that touches our heart, or we’ll read a news story or we’ll see a wounded bird. And that one moment, that one spark of memory, will set us off, and our wound will open.
Yizkor acknowledges those wounds, and gives us the space to sit with them, letting the light in. We remember those people we love who are no longer with us, we remember the people who were more challenging maybe, who wounded us while they were alive as well as in their death. We remember the blessings, the moments of intimacy, the laughter, the silliness and the seriousness, the lessons learned from and with them. Because this Yizkor is on Yom Kippur, we also spend a few moments focusing on forgiveness – of them for not being perfect or for hurting us or for leaving us; and of ourselves for whatever we believe needs forgiveness.
I wonder what Jonah’s wounds were that left him so saddened by his own success, so saddened by others’ redemption, so saddened by the loss of a shading vine that lasted one day. Why did he need to let the light in? And why do you?
Give yourself the time and space to let the light in as we read, and sing, and listen and meditate on our memories.
 Leonard Cohen, Anthem. Lyrics found at http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/leonardcohen/anthem.html.
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