Yom Kippur is supposed to be a day of reflection, right? Well how about if this year, I feel like I’ve reflected enough for a lifetime? This blog is just the tip of the reflection iceberg. Shouldn’t I get a day off from introspection, self-flagellation (okay strong word but I like the imagery), and atonement?
Atoning for our sins. That means stopping what we’re doing and thinking hard on the wrongs we have committed. If you can’t come up with anything flagrant (lieing, cheating, stealing, etc.), that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. We Jews have the ability to dig and dig until we come up with some good shit. And by that, I mean shit.
Shit like the kind that no matter how deeply we think we’ve buried it, if we stop to put our nose to the ground – as on Yom Kippur – the smell comes wafting up.
It comes in many forms. This year, or rather yesterday, I had a different kind of Yom Kippur, representative of where I am today. Usually I go home to New Jersey to be with my family, or rather with my mother, who, like the dedicated soldier she is, goes to the same synagogue we went to as kids, even if she is to go by herself. My sisters have their own families and shul memberships now, so my mother is confronted with going by herself, without the distractions. It pained me this year to think she might go alone (note: she and my father have a good marriage but he does not pray).
But that didn’t keep me from staying in NYC this year, my first time. I went to services Friday night. It was noteworthy that I motivated to go at all, without the guilt or pressure from my family. I guess on a day as holy as Yom Kippur, I didn’t want to find out what might happen if I stayed home. I admit I not so subtly scoured the men’s section to see if there were any eligibles. There were a few, but I figured they were probably married to one of the chicks talking and chewing gum behind me. I also think that men look a lot hotter in synagogue than if you meet them at a bar. Wait, I neglected to add “syna-goggles” to a previous blog about “goggling.” But I digress.
So I attended with a girlfriend of mine and her lovely boyfriend – who is in the process of converting to Judaism. If he can stand sitting and standing and sitting and standing, then who am I not to?
I left early though. I got a taste, and it was enough. Walking out of a place of worship into the heart of the east village, into the throngs of young people partying and drinking on a Friday night was a disconnecting feeling. I felt alone. I thought about my ex-boyfriend, who I missed, and I felt even more alone. But then it occurred to me that since he wasn’t Jewish, it was likely I would have gone by myself anyway. If we were still together, what would he have done? Come with me? Would I have even wanted him to?
These high holidays have a knack for coming at the right time. They force us to ask questions, the kind of self-reflection that only comes due to timing. My ex-boyfriend wasn’t Jewish, and although it would be nice if he was, it was never a deal breaker for me. But I do think the fact that we broke up on Rosh Hashanah is no coincidence. It forced me to consider how I feel about being Jewish; not so much being born into it, but the practices. If my boyfriend and I were still together, what lengths would I have gone to teach him? Would it have been important to me for him to come, or would I have brushed it off, in order to avoid confrontation? In order not to make him uncomfortable? When it’s left up to me and my beliefs – when there is no one else in the picture – what values are essential enough to go out of my way for?
Since I don’t have the answers yet (it’s only been twenty-four hours), I figure that for me, Yom Kippur has delivered on the self-reflection thing. It made me stop and think, what if? What truly matters? What can I do, what can I change, moving forward?
By the way, the whole fasting thing is interesting. If you’re a single New Yorker on the run like I am, it’s the same as any other day. I was hungry, but it was just a nuisance. It was convenient that the light in my kitchen burnt out the night before, and since I don’t have a man around to change it (that’s not me being lazy, that’s me being klutzy. The last time I tried to change it I shattered the fixture and the light bulb all over the stove and floor), it was too hard for me to find my food anyway.
But this morning, feeling renewed – and hungry as hell – I ventured out to buy a light bulb, and managed to replace it myself (and subsequently made the best omellete this kitchen has ever seen).
What’s that phrase from the bible? Oh right. And God said, “Let there be light!”
I got me some of that.