We Will Dance Again

This was delivered as the Yizkor (Memorial) Sermon for the Seventh Day of Passover at Temple Beth El in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The path to freedom is not linear. Keep going… The path through grief is not linear. Keep going… It may be muddy. It may be overwhelming. Keep going.

As a child, I have this vivid memory of going to Temple on the chaggim, the festivals: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. There we were, me and my siblings, five kids with our parents at Temple Israel in Westport, Connecticut, and only a handful of others were there.  I honestly couldn’t understand why my parents kept me out of school for that.

But here I am today, clearing my calendar to come to synagogue for a small sacred gathering as Exodus and as Leviticus and as Deuteronomy command.

Something about that experience draws me back to shul on the chagim – as it draws you. It is memory.

Yizkor – four times a year – near the conclusion of our holiest time, we stop to honor the memory of our ancestors – perhaps our fathers or our mothers or our spouses, or siblings, and in some cases, tragically, our children.

Four times a year – near the conclusion of our holiest time we recite Yizkor: at the end of Sukkot on Shemini Atzeret; at the end of the Ten Days of Repentance on Yom Kippur afternoon; today, at the end of Pesach; and on Shavuot, at the end of the seven days times seven week of the Counting of the Omer.

We linger. We reflect. We remember. We mourn. We move on. We keep going.

Why do we recite Yizkor on festivals? Tradition teaches it stems from Proverbs which states, “Even with laughter, the heart aches, and its end is that joy turns to sorrow.” (Proverbs 14:13)

But  I don’t like that negative mindset. I would add a voice of perspective from the Psalms “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.” (Psalms 126:5-6),

Sorrow and joy, tears and laughter are viewed as ends of a spectrum of grief and celebration and they are viewed co-mingled. As Ecclesiastes teaches: There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. Mourning and dancing reflect the life journeys we make.

There were those who did not want to leave Egypt and all they had ever known. Though it was oppressive, the journey forward to freedom was also fearful.  The journey forward through grief is likewise fearful. Our loved ones were our foundation: the individuals we called for advice; the souls who made us laugh; the friends with whom we shared sacred memories; they were our solid sources of love and pride. How can we remember our greatest of family moments, college moments, life moments, without them? They lived our memories with us. We keep going.

Today we remember… those in our congregation who are gone — who strengthened our physical walls, our spiritual walls, and our social halls. Today we remember… those who were murdered on October 7th — the babies, the youth, the mothers, the fathers, the grandparents, the peacemakers. Today we remember… the soldiers who have fallen in fighting to defend Israel. And we pray for an end to the war. So that others don’t need to mourn as we mourn and as so many are mourning. Our global world is grieving.

Judaism is about memory. Passover is about memory. Yizkor is about memory. And all have a messianic aim… and end game where God, with our help, will wipe away individual and global grief. The opening of doors to Elijah at the Seder reflects that goal of a better future and our own commitment to co-create it.

Today is the anniversary of passing through the sea to freedom when we remember our moment of liberation. We stand at the other side of the shore exhausted, exhilarated, and traumatized. We keep going and summon the strength to sing and to celebrate. Moses and the Israelites sang a song celebrating liberation. Miriam had planned ahead and packed a timbral which she took in her hand and the women joined her in song and dance, too.

The Baal Shem Tov, the 18th Century founder of the Chasidic movement taught that the journey through grief ends with song.  He taught that there are three ways to mourn: through tears, through silence, and through song. When we mourn someone truly beloved we experience all three emotions. First we are overwhelmed by tears. Then as our grief settles, we sink into silence. And finally, we are able to celebrate the memories of our hearts with song.

The Exodus teaches us we are resilient. The Exodus teaches we have responsibility to remember and to continue the legacy. The Exodus teaches us to celebrate – even as we struggle. To sing. To dance. To live. To keep going.

Midrash Shemot Beshallach (23:4) teaches that no one sang until the Song at the Sea. God created Adam but he did not sing. Isaac was saved from his father’s knife of sacrifice but he did not sing. Jacob escaped from his nighttime wrestling with an angel and from his encounter of reconciliation with Esaul but he did not sing. But the Israelites in the exhaustion and exhilaration sang – and God said, “Finally, the Israelites open their mouths with wisdom. I have been waiting for this.”

The last time we said Yizkor as a Reform Jewish World was October 7th at the end of Sukkot. On that day, over 3000 mostly Israel youth and young adults were gathered for all night music festival. Yet at the awesome time of sunrise, darkness fell upon our world. 364 mostly young people, including my cousin, were murdered that day.

There was a 150-day tribute to the tragedy and the event was called, “We will dance again.” If the Nova Festival massacre survivors and community can commit to dancing again then so can we.

The end of our journey to freedom is song. The end of our journey through grief is song.

Yizkor – may God remember and may we remember our loved ones who have died. May we mourn. May we weep. May we keep going so that our grief be turned into song and our tears into dancing.

Photo by  Benjamin Wedemeyer from Unsplash.com.

4 Comments Write a comment


  • Frieda Schwartz April 29, 2024

    Dear Rabbi,
    Thank you very much for this wonderful sermon and the thought provoking message it delivers! Although the difficult times in our world seem to cloud my optimism about life your sermon delivers hope and encouragement to keep moving ahead and remain strong.
    You have helped me and I’m grateful.

    • Rabbi Judith Schindler April 30, 2024

      You are so sweet! Thank you so much for all the support you provide to our Greenspon Center.

  • Nancy Yudell April 29, 2024

    Powerful & inspiring! Thank you.

    • Rabbi Judith Schindler April 30, 2024


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