Death Rehearsal

This year I came upon this interesting sermon for Yom Kippur titled, “Let Death Be Our Teacher.”

This piece explains the way in which Yom Kippur is traditionally understood to be “a rehearsal of our death.”

In it, Rabbi Dara Frimmer says:

Let’s be honest, most of us wait until a crisis is upon us to make significant changes in our lives.

My father had a great life before he was diagnosed. He worked hard AND played golf every Wednesday. He loved photography, travel, and good food. He collected recipes from the New York Times and once a month our kitchen would become a gastronomy lab.

And when he was diagnosed, as most of us might do, he took account of his life – a Cheshbon Ha- Nefesh – literally, an accounting of his soul. Which is exactly what we are asked to do on Yom Kippur. A Cheshbon HaNefesh invites us to take inventory: Are we wasting moments of our life or are we lifting up and celebrating what is most precious?

The whole sermon is worth reading and has several gems in the form of anecdotes, quotations, and questions.

It is interesting to consider the similarities and differences between the Jewish concept of a Cheshbon HaNefesh and the Catholic practice of making an Examination of Conscience.

Jews and Catholics both strike their breasts when confessing sins – Jews striking their chest upon each transgression mentioned in the Viddui and Catholics doing so thrice when praying the Confiteor usually in the context of the mass.

One key difference is that the Jewish prayer is spoken in first person plural whereas Catholics make their confession in the first person singular.

As Dara Frimmer sums up, “Yom Kippur is crying out: Don’t wait until the final moments of your life. Begin the work today.”

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