My favorite moment of the High Holidays occurs in the waning hours of Yom Kippur afternoon. Cantor Green’s voice has filled the sanctuary with the sacred beauty of Leonard Bernstein’s glorious music to the Twenty-Third Psalm. We have thumped our chests one last time asking forgiveness for our missteps of the past year. It is then that Paul Levin ascends the bima for the reading that has been his as long as I have been a member of Oak Park Temple.
In his sonorous, basso profundo voice he begins: “The day is fading; the sun is setting; the silence and peace of night descend upon the earth…’ I gaze behind him and, indeed, the last rays of sunlight are shining through the stain glass windows that flank the Ark. A contemplative silence settles on the sanctuary as he recites the prayer book hope for a bright new year for humanity and the earth.
It is a spiritual coda after ten days of prayer and reflection; I listen in a weakened state of hunger, before quotidian life begins anew. Shortly thereafter the Shofar is sounded; Rabbi Weiss savors a sip of wine, his first liquid in 24 hours, and extinguishes the Havdalah candle, marking the end of the High Holidays. I head home for sustenance cleansed and renewed.