The 3 Images: True stories, introspection lessons for Yom Kippur - review

This imaginative piece of writing explores the desire to awaken in each person the feeling and power of kavanah, sincere intention in prayer and in life.

 KOTEL RABBI Shmuel Rabinowitz watches as workers clear notes placed in wall cracks, Jerusalem. The book connects physical symbolic objects and prayer. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
KOTEL RABBI Shmuel Rabinowitz watches as workers clear notes placed in wall cracks, Jerusalem. The book connects physical symbolic objects and prayer.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

How can we recognize and share the feelings and experiences of others?

Proverbs 27:19 states, “As in water, face reflects face, so is the heart of a man to a man.”

“As in water, face reflects face, so is the heart of a man to a man.”

Proverbs 27:19

This strength describes the persona of Rabbi Zev Shandalov. He possesses that ability to put himself in someone else’s place.

An attentive observer of the world around him, Rabbi Shandalov finds something interesting, significant, unusual, everywhere he looks – in objects, encounters, relationships. And these personal experiences guided and focused his reflections and yearly Erev Yom Kippur messages.

 Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur act as an anchor for the Jewish people. (credit: David Holifield/Unsplash) Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur act as an anchor for the Jewish people. (credit: David Holifield/Unsplash)

10 years of Yom Kippur sermons

His new book, The 3 Images, True Stories and Lessons For Introspection, is based on 10 years of his Yom Kippur night sermons as the rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jacob Beth Samuel in Chicago. And each year, for 10 years, he described three images he had witnessed and experienced, in order to evoke in others particular, personal recollections, feelings of awe and divine connection.

His imaginative piece of writing explores his desire to awaken in each person the feeling and power of kavanah, sincere intention in prayer and in life.

He writes, “After all, it is the time when most Jews are introspective and are indeed looking for the spark or inspiration that will motivate them.”

We know that memories remain in the mind long after, but the author understands, “To know it and to feel it are two different things.”

He is, therefore, striving to communicate to the reader the gift of empathy through images, “the proper frame of mind” to stand before God, to feel the importance of the day, of every day, especially during the months of Elul and Tishrei, and the Days of Awe. “Our lives hang in the balance,” he declares.

He begins with the first image that inspired him, the return address on the envelope he received years ago from the Internal Revenue Service. He questioned his “strong, visceral reaction” of fear and realized, “If I had reacted to the possibility of my life being altered by the IRS merely by the return address on the envelope, how could I not react with the same fear and trepidation regarding Yom Kippur?”

Remembering that feeling each year, Shandalov understood the power an image can have. The watchtower in Auschwitz, a blackout on Erev Yom Kippur, a cellphone, an airplane, the birth of a baby, Raoul Wallenberg’s schutz-pass (protective passport), Tefillat Haderech (the Traveler’s Prayer), a mirror, a star, a shadow are merely a few images that will become indelible in your mind’s eye as you read.

There is the poignant experience of holding his grandfather’s watch. When he arrived for the funeral of his beloved grandfather, Shandalov found a watch and he couldn’t let go of it. “Perhaps in my youthful mind, letting go of his watch was like letting go of Zaydeh, my grandfather,” he writes.

The watch came to represent the years his Zaydeh was alive, and then suddenly time stood still. He cries, “In a certain sense, so did mine, with all my memories of him frozen in time.” He bemoans the long distance of cities between them but knows that there was never any distance in the fierce love that tied them together, “There was absolutely no spiritual distance between us.”

He shares his belief that God, too, is as close to us as we choose.

During the Days of Repentance, this book offers a beautiful mosaic of thoughts and hidden feelings, and the gift of being alone with ourselves, standing before God in introspection, to forge a closer spiritual relationship. There is a sense of joy at the possibilities God has offered us in giving us life.

In 2009, the author made aliyah from Chicago to Ma’aleh Adumim with his wife and three daughters. About aliyah, he says, “Our decision to make aliyah is, simply put, returning home.”

An educator, speaker, blogger and author, Shandalov is teaching at Amit High School for Boys in Ma’aleh Adumim, serves as a rabbi in the community, and is the author of Zemirot Azamer B’Fiyut, two volumes of liturgical poetry in Hebrew.

In his overview of The 3 Images, Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb of the Orthodox Union wrote, “...every so often we do encounter a work that teaches time-honored lessons in a dramatically new and authentically original manner.” 

The 3 ImagesBy Rabbi Zev M. Shandalov104 pages; $18.00