THE EMPTY CHAIR: HOW MUCH IS A LIFE WORTH?
How valuable is a life?
Consider how contemporary society measures the value of people, placing a premium on looks, age, performance, economic class, status and buying power. There are even those who argue that human life is no different than bacteria and has no inherent value, that it only has subjective value invested in it by the individual’s loved ones and by his/her own self love.
And then contrast that against the awesome message of Yom Kippur, when we celebrate the sanctity of the inestimable soul.
Now imagine: A city of 1 million people is held captive. The captors offer the city dwellers an ultimatum: Give us one of you to kill and we will spare the rest, or we will kill you all? What is their obligation?
Remember: One of the most heart-rending stories of the Holocaust, when a sadistic Nazi forced a Jewish mother to choose which of her two children should be killed, or have them both die. What she did teaches us about the indispensability of life?
And there is more…
The shocking story of the candle lit by an innocent girl who wanted to light a Shabbat flame for her mother despite her mother’s opposition, the power of the empty chair, the dilemma of honoring parents who don’t seem to deserve honor – all paint for us an extraordinary portrait of the priceless power of every soul, both on earth and in heaven.
This sermon helps us appreciate the awesome power of Yizkor which, like an empty chair, connects us even more with the souls of our beloved, and ironically reminds us of our own true value, answering the question: Do departed souls see and hear us?