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Yizkor and Tsror

Those are Hebrew words meaning a memorial service for the deceased, and *tsror* is a stone or pebble.

We are in the High Holy Days of the new year, coming toward Yom Kippur, and Yizkor is an experience, a prayer service meant as a ""conversation"" with the dead; the dead answer our call in wordless ways that make a difference in our lives.

The term "tsror" appears in a saying often engraved on stones in cemeteries: "teheye nishmato tsrurah b'tsror ha-Chayyim" which translates as "May her/his soul be bound up in the bonds of Eternal Life."

I knew it was the custom to consecrate a pebble or stone with a prayer but I did not know why. Until just recently... because I was not brought up in the Jewish tradition. Regardless, around this time last year I took pebbles halfway around the world, to Jerusalem, for a ceremony I wrote about here.

I've found an article reprinted from The Jewish Week in 1994, by David J. Wolpe, which talks about why pebbles are used instead of flowers. They have a special character in Judaism, because they're thought to represent permanence amid the pain, when we're faced with the fragility of life. Flowers are a good metaphor for life, because they wither and pass away too; stones and pebbles do not die.

The reason why Yizkor is involved in what's essentially a celebration of mortal life and a renewal of faith during these Days is that it speaks to the permanence of life and the durability of memories of those beloved by us who have gone on. Of which a pebble is a symbol.

This bears witness to the teaching that the moment at which death occurs is not when your body stops working but when there is no one left any longer who remembers you. And there is this simple poem by Yehuda Amichai:

soon
of the two of us
neither will be left
to forget the other.

The meaning of these words is very timelessly profound, it seems to me...

And while any individual flower might wither and fade, the *idea* of a flower does not, the creation behind any one of them is eternal. And I can see that when I look at a blossom both as a mortal being and as a part of the eternal family of all flowers:









And there is movement, too:






And in a clustered family:






And singing in a different color, although you have to stop to listen:






And this, a melody of beauty in every vein:






These are all being watered and they are living in metal boxes on a bridge over one of the canals. It's much colder now, it's Fall, so they'll be gone soon... but their memory will not. Just as stones and pebbles will not.

I think many, if not all, of the traditions of the High Holy Days speak of the mysteries of the passage of time, of what we measure in our lives and of the mysteries in the lives of others we hold dear. Holding beyond time and beyond place. For thousands of years past, and for timeless measures to come.

For me, that includes blossoms as well as stones and pebbles. And images of them too.

Blessings Be.

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kiota too late for the stars
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