Summary of Yizkor Shemini Atzeret - Matching Our Inner & Outer Selves

One of the most beautiful "midrashim" - rabbinic commentaries - on the building of the desert sanctuary concerns the design of the ark. Moses is commanded to overlay the outside of the ark in gold. That makes sense - the ark is the most sacred of all objects and it was to contain the Torah and the tablets of the ten commandments. But then Moses is told to overlay the inside of the ark in gold as well. The rabbis ask why? No one ever would see the inside so why waste the gold? The rabbis answer that it is meant as a lesson to all of us that our inside should match our outside.

Certainly all of us try to be nice and friendly to everyone we meet. We want people to see us as caring people. But we don't always maintain that personality. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we lie. Sometimes we are angry with our spouses and children. There are many times when are inner personality varies greatly from our smiling outer persona.

But this lesson could also be deeper. There are aspects of ourselves that we may have a hard time handling. Such was the case with Rabbi Gil Steinlauf of Adas Israel. He wrote a very emotional and letter to his congregation in which he said in part: "A text I’ve sat with for years is from the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 72b) and states, “Rabbah said, any scholar whose inside does not match his outside is no scholar. Abaye, and some say Ravah bar Ulah, said [one whose inside does not match his outside] is called an abomination.” Ultimately, the dissonance between my inside and my outside became undeniable, then unwise, and finally intolerable. With much pain and tears, together with my beloved wife, I have come to understand that I could walk my path with the greatest strength, with the greatest peace in my heart, with the greatest healing and wholeness, when I finally acknowledged that I am a gay man."

We are about to recall the memory of our loved ones in the yizkor service. We think about the values they upheld and how well they were able to match their inner and outer selves. May we be inspired by their memory and may we be motivated to become better people.