“God, God, benevolent God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in kindness and truth; He preserves kindness for two thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and He cleanses.” (Words of the Amidah according to Exodus 34:6-7)
On this Yom Kippur, May you always be reminded it is the Compassion of God which grants us salvation not according to His Justice but in measure of His Mercy. Christ is His mercy and the glory of His kingdom, now and forever.
As the moon waxes in the sky, we recite a special blessing after nightfall called Kiddush Levanah, “the sanctification of the moon,” praising the Creator for His wondrous work we call astronomy. When we bless the moon, we renew our trust that very soon, the light of God’s presence will fill all the earth and we will be redeemed from exile.
We stand under the open sky, facing east and looking into our prayer books. We begin by reciting the first six verses of Psalm 148, giving praise to God for the moon, sun, stars and heavens, “for He commanded and they were created.” Next, we place our feet together, look at the moon and recite the blessing, “. . . He gave them a set law and time, so that they should not alter their task . . . Blessed are You, Lord, who renews the months.” After lifting our heels three times, we then address the moon, so to speak: “Blessed is your Maker; blessed is He who formed you . . . Just as I leap toward you but cannot touch you, so may all my enemies be unable to touch me harmfully . . .” We emphasize these ideas by repeating this paragraph (and some of the subsequent stanzas) three times. Each time we begin, we lift ourselves to stand on our toes three times.
Next we address the deeper significance of the lunar cycle: “David, King of Israel, is living and enduring.” The kingdom of David is compared to the moon. Though it may have lost much of its former radiance, it will be restored to its glory in messianic times. We make a point of wishing peace to those who are peaceful. We turn to three of our fellow congregants and wish them peace, “shalom aleichem,” and they wish us peace in return, “aleichem shalom.”
Inspired by the joy of greeting the Divine Presence, we exclaim three times, “May this be a good sign and good fortune for us and the entire Israel nation.” This is also why we greet those around us, since joy is always greater when shared with others. We then recite two verses from the Song of Songs (2:8–9) that describe God, “looking through the windows, peering through the crevices,” just as the light of the moon does on a clear night. God’s omnipresent protection is described again in the next Psalm we say (121): “The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night… The Lord will guard your going and coming from now and for all time.” We then repeat King David’s words (Psalm 150): “Praise God in His holiness, praise him in the firmament of His strength . . . Let every being that has a soul praise the Lord.”
May you be inscribed for a good sweet year!
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