This past August, while sitting shiva for our son, Ricky, the liturgy at our daily minyan took on new and important meaning for me. Passages that were once a source of comfort and strength became burdensome, and caused me to ask more questions than I knew I could. Other passages, prayers that were meaningful but “routine,” took on greater significance than I thought possible. An example of the latter, a prayer that moved me in ways that it never had before, is the short phrase that we chant when returning the Torah to the aron kodesh (holy ark): Hadesh yameinu k’kedem — Renew our days as in the past.
More than anything that is what I wanted (and, in more ways than one, still do)! If only we could turn back the clock and know what was about to happen: prevent death from occurring. If only … if only … if only … Renew our days as in the past. And yet, as passionately as those words emerged from my heart, so did I also understand that what I wanted would and could not be.
And yet? And yet, those words came to mean even more over the course of our sheloshim (the 30-day mourning period for the loss of a child). As the days marched on, that phrase empowered me to understand that more important than looking back over the past was looking forward to the future. More important than getting stuck in the grief was the need to look toward the strength that the memories will provide me … the joy that yet can be … the opportunity to continue to try to transform this world into what it still can be … to make sure that I try to touch the world as Ricky did.
As it was this past August … as it has been over the past few weeks … so is it even more so as we begin this New Year of 5778. Hadesh yameinu k’kedem — Renew our days as in the past. What is it we really want for the New Year? Is it to go back in time and have what was? Or, is it to embrace what is ours to have and make the most of it, to try our best to make the best use out of the opportunities that are presented to us day in and day out to move forward into our future?
As we sit on the cusp of the beginning of a New Year we can look back with desire at what used to be, want to cling to the past and never let go. But then we will only be stuck to what was. What my experience with this prayer taught me is that there is nothing to be had with getting stuck in the past. However, if we strive to build a future based on what made the past, the foundation upon which we stand today, so meaningful and significant, then our days will be renewed with hopes and prayers fulfilled, smiles and laughter for all to share.
And so, as we sit on the cusp of the beginning of a New Year, I share with you what this short phrase has come to mean to me … I share my prayer for you:
Hadesh yameinu k’kedem — Renew our days as in the past. Remind us that the present is a gift that we should not take for granted.
Hadesh yameinu k’kedem — Renew our days as in the past. Empower us to transform the opportunities that are afforded us into the reality of a world that is deserving of praise.
Hadesh yameinu k’kedem — Renew our days as in the past. Teach us to appreciate those moments that are ours.
Hadesh yameinu k’kedem — Renew our days as in the past. Enable us to find a little piece of peace.
Hadesh yameinu k’kedem — Renew our days as in the past. May all the goodness that has been ours echo into the days and weeks to come so that we will know what it is to have a shanah tovah … a year of health, a year of happiness, a year of peace.