Lorna Crozier has provided us a valuable service. She has looked at ordinary household objects in such a different way so as to imbue them with power beyond the purposes for which they were invented. He new book – and all too brief – entitled The Book of Marvels is…marvelous. She rhapsodizes on things as disparate as hangers and glass doorknobs. Yet it is particularly her observations about the common bowl that are relevant to the feelings Jews expereince as they gather in their synagogues for Yom Kippur.
It is not the shape of the bowl, as graceful as it may be, that captures her attention. Nor is it any particular colour, size, or material that makes a bowl stand out. Instead, Crozier points to the four possible conditions of bowls. A bowl can be full or empty, whole or broken. And with a rare insight she notes these are precisely the same possibilities for the human condition. People can have full lives – replete with material success, professional achievements, familial joys and responsibilities. Ot people may have empty lives – depleted of antyhing partcularly meaningful. Some people may be physically, emotionally, and spiritually whole while others are unfortunately broken.
For those who are full and whole, Yom Kippur is a joyous holiday. Accordingly, the exchanges of “Gut Yontiff” or Happy Holiday are representative. But for those who are empty or broken, Yom Kippur is a remedy. It calls us to look at our condition as fixable. No one is doomed to despair, consigned to permanent failure. Though some may lack the motivation, all have the ability to change their lives for the better. Just like a bowl that may sit empty on a shelf can be filled with delectables, so can an empty life. And any bowl that is cracked or chipped can, in all likelihood, be repaired. On Yom Kippur we focus as much on what can be better as we do on what went wrong.
As we approach God and each other on this most solemn day of the year, let us marvel at just how great our lives can be.