The above title is taken from the El Maleh Rachamim ("G-d Full of Compassion") prayer. This prayer is dedicated to the soul of the departed person. It is recited by a Cantor at a Jewish funeral. It is also recited on days of remembrance for the deceased and various other occasions or days in the Hebrew calendar such as his or her death anniversary (Yahrzeit). This prayer, packed with very powerful imagery, is also recited publicly during memorial days such as Yom Ha'Shoa dedicated to the victims of the holocaust and Memorial Day commemorating Israel's fallen soldiers.
Unfortunately in recent years, we have been hearing it more often for the souls of our young departed soldiers who died in the wars defending the Jewish state. We have also been hearing it recited for the untimely death of the many innocent victims of terror. A few days ago, it was recited at Shira Banki's funeral.
“B’ma-alot k’doshim ut-horim “ is but one line taken from this important and compelling prayer. It refers to the heavenly stairs leading to the spheres where only the Holy and Pure could ever set foot as they make their way towards their eternal rest under the Wings of the Schechina. For me, it is the most meaningful one. It is generally here, at this point of the prayer that some frozen river within me thaws and a gush of tears bursts forth.I have often wondered, why? What in this particular line, which I have heard so many times, always triggers that response in me, and why then? I believe I may have finally discovered the answer.For many years, and for some odd reason, I would impatiently wait for the cantor to reach that line. Once he did, I would immediately close my eyes. That is where I stopped listening to rest of it. It simply did not matter. My essence was being taken over by this very gripping vision that unfolded itself upon hearing that line. I could never fully articulate it. Somehow it seemed too holy to lend itself to be expressed in mundane language. Let me try to share it with you.
In the vision unfurling itself to me, I could see a stairway mounting to an unseen realm. I could never see its top. It was always mantled with pure white clouds. I could only imagine what it cradled or embraced behind the blinding and brightly glaring splendor that adorned it - A sight reserved for the selected and very privileged, to those pure and holy souls making their way towards it.
My mind’s eye would then wander to the borders of the hanging stairs where transparent angelic entities were standing on each side of them. Their soft tender eyes were caressing the holy and pure ascenders, women, men, children, young and old as they were slowly making their way towards the top of the stairs, to where I could only dream of getting one day.That vision is all I ask and want to be worthy of and blessed to experience one day. The wish to walk in their footsteps and reunite with them under the wings of the Schechina is what my soul longs to undergo one day. To walk in their path towards that one place is all that my soul has yearned and continues to yearn for. The fear that I may not, rages in me, stirring the strongest emotional storm, unleashing the rivers of tears, which I pray to G-d, will cleanse my soul, wash away my sins and prepare me to join their exalted assembly.