Thursday, October 13, 2005


No work today. Fasting mixes poorly with the effectively hyperactive daily grind, my naturally sage-on-the-stage pedagogy.

But no services, either. I never really got much out of the communal trappings of high holiday worship, especially on an all-day scale. As a kid, the daylong was excruciating and ultimately unproductive, all sense of atonement drowned in the stuffy monotony of the liturgy, the uncomfortable itch of starchy dress.

Last year's temple session with Mom was better paced, more relevant than most. But intellectual interest in new prayers and infrastructures is no substitute for spiritual substance. Instead of finding my peace in the midday meditation session, I fell asleep.

In lieu of formal repentance, then, I choose to spend the day solo, walking the woods, seeking my peace with God and self. The mudpath back acres here are bright with yellow leaves, late mushrooms in vibrant pinks and rainsky blues. Fallen trees turn to mush in the rain. Grey rooftops loom through the low bare branches of a hundred canopy pines and oaks.

Four houses down, the path ends abruptly at the swollen river. I walk upstream for a while, past the fork and along the smaller tributary, skirting long grass and beavercut pine; turn around just before the dam itself.

Just before I reenter the woods for the short hike homewards I speak aloud. I ask God to help me remember the lessons of the past year, that I might continue to learn from them even as our life becomes more stable. To lend me strength as I strive to do and be better, even when Life Is Good. Amen.

I stand for a minute, thankful for another year. My words drift and flow into the roar of the concrete waterfall just downriver, where they become one with the universe.

And then I go home, to sit and meditate in the midst of my family, our tiny community of four humans, two animals, who deserve my best, and help me to be my best. Because they, too, are part of God's agency in my life.

That Yom Kippur is supposed to be about community is no accident. It is through their love, after all, that I am able to open my heart to God. It is through them, after all, that I have the courage to try in the first place.

So although I know my choice to observe in privacy precludes my daughter's attendance, however perfunctory and stiff, at more formal templegoing, I believe this is the right way for now, at least. Maybe some day we'll have them put on their uncomfortable shoes and sit for the day in a big room filled with the smell of old books and old people, listening to the Cantor lead the community through their apologia. When they are ready. When they can listen, to their hearts and their lives.

In the meantime: God bless my children, and I will help them learn to love you, and the world. And I will teach them to cast their own atonement upon the waters, that they, too, may be cleansed. I will help them find meaning in all your houses, for you are everywhere we are.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:32 PM |

Beautiful post.

I'm willing to bet there's a Renewal shul somewhere in the Northampton area. It's the form of practice I've come to love most, especially at Yom Kippur. Ping me next year, or the year after, or whenever, if you're curious -- I'd be happy to look into it for you.
that's a pretty sweet thing to say (your blog entry - not that previous spam ugliness)

Glad folks liked the yom kippur "service."

Well, all my Jewish friends, anyway. All two of them.

Interestingly, though Longmeadow (two towns over) cancells school for Jewish holidays, I seem to have been the ONLY person - student, admin, or teacher -- who took the day off at Wilbraham Middle School. Ah, minority life...

Incidentally, I've deleted the spam. Diligence is a decent watchword, though I won't bother once new entries occur to me.
Thank you for this post. I don't get to your blog often but am glad I did this morning.

Having attended Rosh Hashanah services for the first time this year with your sister, I find myself trying to absorb as much understanding about Jewish traditions and holidays as I can. I know very little about Yom Kippur.

Here in the midwest, nothing stops on a Jewish holiday, and there's been very little exposure for me. That's changing, and I guess I find most of it pretty fascinating.
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I think you're right on track and not many people are willing to admit that they share your views. 2 lost is an AWESOME place to discuss LOST.
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