Hands-down this is my favorite time of year, when the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur come around. The long services are filled with moving melodies and highly repetitive prayers that penetrate my every being. It is a time for renewal, remembrance, and atonement. Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, there were very few Jews. One of my fondest memories is of my dad serving as our temple’s cantor when he wasn’t working his day job. Each High Holy Day he would stand before the congregation and his lovely heart-felt voice would quietly emerge.
Even after all these years, even as I attend my own temple’s services here in Washington, D.C., I can still hear his deeply moving voice. I can still see his gentle leaning into each note, seeking to locate just the right intonation and feeling. He never seemed to try and suggest a sense of sacredness; rather, in those moments, he was sacred.
I remember him giving of himself in such a way that made me so incredibly proud. “That’s my dad,” I would sit there and think. Now, approaching 80 years old, he is still singing, as he did this past Rosh Hashanah weekend, still a member of the same upstate N.Y. temple.
In person, my dad is a quiet, reserved, sometimes shy man. But when I was a kid growing up, listening to him in temple was one of those rare moments when I could see the depths of his soul with absolute clarity right before my eyes.
To this day I know his is a good and mighty fine soul.
This year my 16-tear old daughter was asked by our temple to sing the 23rd psalm on Yom Kippur, which will occur in a matter of days. I already know that it will be difficult for me to keep my composure as I sit in the sanctuary and listen to her sing.
Indeed, I will sit in my temple as a proud dad, as my daughter’s angelic voice emerges; and I will be there as a proud son, too, as I hear in the distance once more the sound of my dad’s quiet voice.