Services start at 10am and they end around 6pm (this is for our shul (synagogue), many others will have different schedules), with small breaks in between. Those who are able should also fast from sundown the night before until the fast is “broken” after Havdalah (the service that ends “holy time” celebrated at the end of Shabbat and holidays) at the “end” of Yom Kippur. This means that a person is sitting through hours of services while thirsty and hungry. (Full disclosure: I was unable to fast this year because my blood sugar is very wonky right now, and I’ve had far too many issues/episodes lately. So, I ate lightly and small to regulate my blood sugar.)
Yom Kippur is also beautiful. It is edifying to come together as a community, pray with other Jews the same prayers being said throughout the Jewish world. The sanctuary is packed to the gills, familiar and new faces both plentiful. We start at the beginning of the Machzor (our prayer book used for High Holy Days) and at the end of the day, we will have reached the end, some 600+ pages later.
I am always filled with a sense of renewal and excitement during the Days of Awe*. Granted, the High Holy Days* usually occur in early fall, when the temperatures are dropping, the rains are returning, and the leaves are beginning their transition. Considering Fall is my favorite season here in the Pacific Northwest, when it’s combined with the High Holy Days, it brings an unbeatable combination of rejuvenation, hope, and purpose into my life.
It’s common knowledge that as we get older, we become more aware of time. It seems to pass more quickly than in our youth, with the months and years marching past so fast that we feel dizzy.
When my father died, I initially counted his absence in days. It was important to do so because for the first 30 days, I wore a torn ribbon over my heart as an outward sign of my inward grief. Once those 30 days passed, I still counted in days, ensuring that I recited the Mourner’s Kaddish each evening before saying the Sh’ma. As time passed, I began marking the loss of him in weeks. Every Friday, I’d say to myself, “It’s been X weeks since Dad died.”
I love the Jewish High Holy Days. While we have a lot of holidays on the calendar, I’ve been practicing Judaism long enough to know that Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is joyful and celebratory, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is serious, somber, and breathtakingly powerful. This year was especially poignant because I attended the Yizkor service, which honors those who have died during the previous year and comforts those who are mourning.
I haven’t blogged much lately, but in my defense, I was just promoted and have been very, very busy. I’m extremely grateful for the promotion and the generous raise that came with it, but it does require more work to be at this new level and I realize that. I used to be a prolific writer and blogger, but my career took a turn four years ago and I’ve struggled with finding time to write ever since. That’s likely to continue!
All that being said, I just went through my first experiences with the Jewish High Holy Days and it affected me profoundly. I have been struggling finding the right synagogue, and there aren’t a lot around here to choose from in the first place, but the one I was attending is no longer palatable. The rabbi I’m studying under, who was at the helm of that synagogue, has left and, out of loyalty to her and disgust with the leadership there, I haven’t gone back. This frustration, though, led me to a synagogue about 25 minutes away that I now know will be my future home for Jewish life and worship. Rosh Hashanah services there were absolutely breathtaking. My old synagogue was tiny, like being in someone’s living room, but this new place is large, with pews and the most gorgeous, two story ark that holds the Torah. They also have a choir that sings in Hebrew (of course). This music, combined with the prayers, moved me greatly. Rosh Hashanah is now my favorite Jewish holiday, but Yom Kippur is the one that affected me the most.
The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called the Days of Awe. It’s a time to “get right” with those we have had strife and struggle with over this past year. As Yom Kippur approached and then passed, one person kept appearing in my head, over and over again: my brother.Continue reading “Forgiveness. Can you imagine?”→