I'm a bit of a latecomer to the Harry Potter craze, but, after reading the final book, it's clear to me that these are much more than mere children's stories. The whole series -- especially the final book -- engages some of the most most profound themes in our lives, and many of these themes are the same ones that are central to our holiest of holidays, Yom Kippur, which starts at sundown tomorrow: themes that involve confronting our own mortality, confronting the possibility that we may not be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year. Standing on the precipice of death that the fast and liturgy of Yom Kippur brings us to we are forced to ask ourselves what it is that really matters to us in our lives. Who and what matters to us most. What we really want to be doing with our lives. And what is the potential for teshuvah -- of a change in the direction of our lives.
The memorial service on Yom Kippur that we call yizkor is one of our ways of marking what matters most to us. We remember then the ones who have passed from this life who mattered to us most. Who we miss the most. Who we owe the most.
I would not be giving anything away about how the final Potter book concludes to say that there is a key scene in there where the now fully grown, bespeckled wizard recalls the people who have mattered to him most in a most intense and vivid way. He asks those now-dead people to walk beside him for a bit. He asks them to give him strength and courage amidst the greatest of his many tests. He asks them for forgiveness for the ways he has hurt them. And he tells them all they have meant to him.
If you participate in yizkor this Yom Kippur, may it be the will of the Blessed Holy One that your loved ones will come clear and vivid into your mind. May you find forgiveness and give forgiveness. And may their memory be a blessing unto you and a source of strength.
Tzom Kal/צום קל, an easy fast. #*#