Recent memories were conjured up as well. When it was time for Yizkor, for the memorial prayers, the custom in Israel is to add a special paragraph for those who fell in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. When it came time, there was silence. Noone knew what was happening. It turned out, that the Hazzan couldn't get the words out. Each word choked him, and seared into the hearts of everyone there. 1973 was today, it was yesterday, it will be tomorrow. At the same time, as the present war enters its fourth year, other voices were choked over loved ones, friends and neighbors who've been murdered for riding buses, drinking coffee, datring to live here. All of the almost 1500 people murdered in the last eleven years were invoked in this Yizkor. Everyone prayed that these would be the last. Noone said it out loud. The feeling, however, was tangible.
Right after Yizkor, though, the mood changed on a dime. There was a Brit (a rare enough occasion on Yom Kippur). Everyone segued into happiness at the little boy now initiated into the covenant of Abraham, who grazed these very hills. The contrast was quite tangible, with what had gone before. I was reminded of something told me by a very dear man, Rabbi Moshe Besdin z"l, who is the unsung hero of the Teshuva movement. Now I didn't attend his school. I'd gone straight to RIETS in the midst of my PhD at Harvard, and ws in the Rav's shiur. However, I also had a shul and Rabbi Besdin (who I don't think knew my name), like to feed me with ideas for sermons and on Sunday would come looking for me to see how I'd done.
Anyway, once he came up to me at dinner and pointed out to me that Tosafos says that anyone who doesn't attend a Brit or a weddng is excommunicated by God. That, in fact, is why the common custom is to inform people of a Brit and not to invite outright, i.e, so that people don't get caught up with refusing. The truth is, however, that Tosafos, quoting the Jerusalem Talmud, doesn't talk about the Brit or the wedding ceremony. It refers to the party engendered by the ceremony. So what's the big deal about going to a party? Rabbi Besdin, with his usual twinkle in his eye, said that Tosafos is referring to a person who bemoans the continuity of the Jewish People. Why celebrate when the fate of Israel is to be hated and persecuted? Such a person is cut off from God, because he lacks the faith, the conviction and the insight to rejoice in a better future for Israel and for the future redemption. That rejoicing (without the meal) was what swept the congregation today. It's the response to our tangible Yizkor.
I think that's what you walk out of Yom Kippur with in the Land of Israel. Hope: for Divine forgiveness, for peace, and for the strength, the super-human strength with which we've been endowed to still try to be normal (and succeeded). That's alot to celebrate, as the hammers have made a racket all night as the sukkot go up.