S. Ansky was a Jewish playwright and ethnographer born in Russia whose most famous work was “The Dybbuk.” The play, first performed in Warsaw in 1920 and still performed today, tells the story of a young bride who is possessed by a dybbuk — the spirit of her deceased beloved. This translated and adapted excerpt features the monologue of the Hasidic rebbe who is brought in to exorcise the spirit from the bride. The passage, which notes the work of the High Priest during the Avodah service of Yom Kippur, is often included in contemporary High Holiday liturgy.
A The world of God is great and holy!
B Of all the lands of the world, the Land of Israel
was set aside to be holy for us;
and in the Land of Israel, the holiest city is Jerusalem.
C In Jerusalem, the holiest place was the Holy Temple;
and the holiest site in the Temple was the Holy of Holies…
D …There are 70 nations, and of them, Israel
was set aside to be holy unto God.
The holiest of the people Israel is the tribe of the Levites.
The holiest of the Levites are the priests;
And among the priests, the holiest was the High Priest.
E …And the holiest of the Shabbatot is
the Day of Atonement.
F …There are 70 languages in the world,
and of them, Hebrew was chosen as our holy tongue.
G The holiest of all things written… is the Torah.
…the holiest part is the Ten Commandments.
H And the holiest of all the words in the
Ten Commandments is the name of God.
I At a certain hour, on a certain day of the year,
all these four holiness met together.
This took place on the Day of Atonement,
at the hour when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies
and there revealed the divine name.
J And if he invoked God’s name in purity,
all of Israel was forgiven.
Every human being created by God
in God’s own image is a High Priest.
Each day of a person’s life is the Day of Atonement…
Each of us can face God with the language of the heart.
Each of us can be forgiven.
Each one of us can achieve atonement and
be made pure in the eyes of God.
From S. Ansky’s “The Dybbuk”
Translated by Rabbi Edward Feld. Reprinted with permission from Mahzor Lev Shalem,
©Rabbinical Assembly, 2010, p. 326.
A What is the world of God? Is it the world that God inhabits? Is it the world over which God has dominion? Does God make this world great and holy or is the world great and holy because it contains the presence of God? —Lila Kagedan
B Holiness, kedusha, is not a static state but a relational one. We designate our beloved through kiddushin; we elevate the souls of our departed with kaddish; and we sanctify our time with kiddush, surrounded by family and friends. So, too, only by designating, elevating, and sanctifying Israel and Jerusalem with presence of body and intention of mind, do we create relationship and affirm holiness. —Andy Green
C I peel away the outer layers as I seek the Holy of Holies in my soul, the core of my inner Temple. When I stand at that moment, when I find the Presence that resides inside me, what will I see? How will I become more worthy of that Presence? —Heidi Hoover
D No need for a Levite, there is holiness within me! God-given from generation to generation, mi dor l’dor, holiness renders my relationship with God unique. Not bound by caste, this holiness grants me a one-on-one audience with the Eternal, pushes me to grasp at a name, courses in my veins, and commands dialogue. —Daniel Bar-Nahum
E To open oneself to Shabbat, to rest as God rested after the creation, is to acknowledge the piece of me that is already one with God. When I seek forgiveness or atonement, I am seeking ultimate connection — to repair my relationship with God, but also to reconnect with my self. —Emily Barton
F Hebrew is lashon ha’kodesh, a language made holy by tradition and love. And yet, prayers arise in all tongues and without words: Even when gates of forgiveness seem closed to words, they remain open to tears, acts, and prayerful silence. Especially on Yom Kippur, we are called to use words to transcend words, for the Ineffable Truth is beyond words in any language. —David Markus
G The Torah is the culmination of an unwritten tradition put into writing to serve as a reminder of our imperfections and our heritage. The Ten Commandments are the most basic and fundamental of those unwritten ideals, without which the Torah would lose its inherent holiness. —Ilan Schwartz
H “The Name” of God (HaShem) is more than a word; it is, in and of itself, a world. “The Name” of God is unpronounceable and unknowable; “The Name” of God is faithful, long-suffering, and eternal. “The Name” was uttered by God at the burning bush, by Moses at Sinai, and by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies, and it is uttered by each of us when we bring thought, word, and deed together in an effort to repair a broken world where God is one and God’s name is one. —Daniel Millner
I Call upon an ancient ritual that exposes your imperfect humanness to time, space, and God in a unified moment. Sins, foibles, wrongs, mistakes, and shortcomings are all washed clean; what is left is the ultimate gift from the Divine Presence — another chance to live well.
The four letters gleam like keys on a ring that will open every prison door in one breath.
Yes! Call out the God-name in your name, also in the name of the one who scarred you, and in the name of the one you scarred.
Unlock with me forgiveness: Right here, right now, fall down and say it all.