Death, Loss and Hope For Another Year

by Audrey Miller on September 18, 2017

in Articles & Blogs by Audrey, Elder Care, Family Conflict

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By: Audrey Miller, originally published @allaboutestates.ca

While the New Year starts in January, Jews around the world celebrate another New Year, the birth of the universe, 5778 years ago based on the Hebrew calendar. While it is the first of the High Holidays, for many who may not attend synagogue, it may still be recognized and celebrated with family sitting down together for a festive dinner.

When there has been a death of a loved one over the previous year, it is during the holidays when I believe their absence is felt stronger than ever. I know it is for me. For feuding families perhaps it is also time to put differences aside as we recognize how important family is.

The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) will be celebrated this week, closely followed by the 10 days of Awe leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is the time for prayer and atonement so as to be inscribed in the Book of Life and to have another year of ‘peace, property and blessing’. The Book of Life is then sealed, on Yom Kippur.

A well known poem called Unetaneh Tokef—Let Us Cede Power- was written over 1000 years ago continues to be sung every year in synagogues around the world. Many of us may know the revised version of this poem by the late Leonard Cohen, which follows below the traditional chant.

Unataneh Tokef: 
How many shall die and how many shall be born
Who shall live and who shall die
Who at the measure of days and who before
Who by fire and who by water
Who by the sword and who by wild beasts
Who by hunger and who by thirst
Who by earthquake and who by plague
Who by strangling and who by stoning
Who shall have rest and who shall go wandering
Who will be tranquil and who shall be harassed
Who shall be at ease and who shall be afflicted
Who shall become poor and who shall become rich
Who shall be brought low and who shall be raised high.

Who By Fire by Leonard Cohen:
“And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of May,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?
And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
And who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger,
And who shall I say is calling?
And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his lady’s command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?”

Regardless of which version you sing, it is a powerful poem timeless in its ability to make us reflect on our past and hope for the future.  Happy New Year/Shana Tova

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