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The first edition of this book ended on the South lawn of the White House with the handshake between Yassir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin.For a later edition I added a chapter taking note of events that happened after 1993 right up to the horror of 9/11. All these,indeed most of this book, involved looking from the inside out: my reflections on people, events, politics, music, theatre, film, all that touched me and my life. When I look back over much of what I have written, it seems almost as if I have placed myself on the outside of my own life, looking in—or maybe looking out—through a window: a visitor to a strange landscape, marveling at the sights and the sounds, managing a laugh or two. This chapter is about looking at the inside from the inside. As I sit down to write,the glow of the High Holidays is still with us, replete with the solemnity and the demand for self-appraisals. I find the most comfort, solace, and thought-provoking source of renewal in the teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. I, a secular Jew, am closest to my roots when Reb Zalman speaks, sings, smiles, and permits thoughts to mingle from the many sources upon which he draws. This Chassidic rabbi is the most intellectually curious human being I know. What do I learn from him especially on the High Holidays? I learn about forgiveness, about the need to forgive myself before I can forgive others; indeed about how to forgive myself before I can know how to forgive others. Reb Zalman knows that forgiveness does not come easily to us.From his teachings,and from my own attempts at selfobservation ,I have learned that anger must be allowed to become sorrow, and that sorrow must be allowed to become shared suffering (Mitleid in German) before our hearts can return to love. The Hebrew phrase that describes the High Holidays is to me deeply troubling. The common English translation is a euphemism, a softened Postscript 2014 444 • P O S T S C R I P T 2 0 1 4 version of what the Hebrew actually says. Yamim nora’im is rendered as “days of awe.” Awe denotes wonder, admiration, respect, veneration. But the accurate rendition of yamim nora’im is “days of dread,” and that denotes fear, terror, trepidation, and anxiety. If God is real, a higher being with anthropomorphic features and faculties, then I owe an accounting to God, a retelling of the year’s transgressions so I can take my punishment as the boys did in kheder, the Hebrew school, at the hands of the rabbi. But if God is a concept, an idea, an omnipresence, undefined by shape and substance,then I owe the accounting to a much harsher judge: myself. And I can’t lie. Denial does not work when you are submitting to the inner judge.You know very well what you did;and you also know what you failed to do. The questions of “who I am”and “what is owed to whom”get to be in sharper focus for me these days and especially on the High Holidays. I am going on ninety years old and,frankly,I am not prepared to deal with the mystery of dying.I am not even ready to admit that there is such a thing as decline. It is self-deception, I know, and it works most of the year—except on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Some of the other worshippers seem to be spectators and listeners rather than participants. Perhaps this is because they don’t know Hebrew all that well. But I do; and I confess that I fall apart whenever I hear AlTashlicheynu le’et zikna, “do not banish us as we grow old and as we grow weak do not abandon us.”That is when the tears come,unreasonably,because I may be old but I do not feel weak.Then I realize that the tears are not only for me;they are also for the aged and ailing I know and meet, for men and women in old age homes, in hospitals and hospices. For them I hope to be the melitz yosher,the advocate,the interlocutor.Singing for them,playing for them sometimes works.What works best is letting them hear the sounds of their youth and the language of their childhood,Yiddish. Much credit is due to David Ben...


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