Friday, October 10, 2008

5769: Yom Kippur Reflections

In my life lately, it appears that everything is interestingly coincidental. It leaves me wondering about bigger things at work. What was it this time? The rabbi's sermon at Yom Kippur morning services echoed my recent post on the statements of the Ger Rabbi. When he started speaking it, I grinned hugely, nudged Evan and felt completely proud. I need to email the rabbi to thank him for inviting us to services, not to mention for being so like-minded on one of the biggest sermons of the year.

This year, for some reason, Yom Kippur resonated more deeply, more thoroughly than all of my short years in the tribe. The fast went more smoothly (up until the point where I attempted to nap and didn't so much and woke up grumpy as all get out) than in all past years combined for some reason -- was it the weather? Being in shul more? Where I was mentally and emotionally? For some reason, the moment I stepped into shul for Kol Nidre after the pre-fast stuff-your-face fest at Hillel, I was prepared. I hadn't felt prepared before, but it just hit me the moment the service started that I was in sync with the day. The melodies and words came to me with ease, which is something I always worry about with those once-a-year celebrations in the Jewish calendar. I am a Shabbos maven because I get a dose nearly every week. But the holidays are a point of frustration for me much of the time. But this year, it was if the rabbi's words were zipping through my mind before they came out of his mouth. It probably sounds incredibly zen-like, but that's not what I'm getting at.

I felt a connection. I felt heard. I was atoning, speaking to G-d, seeing my name in the book of life.

So the low-down: Kol Nidre was at Hillel. Then morning services were at the conservative shul in West Hartford. I finished off afternoon/evening services back at Hillel.

Services in West Hartford were absolutely magnificent. Up until when the organ and choir busted out during the Torah service. Up until then, an elderly cantor (not the usual fellow) was moving the service along in a beautiful stream of prayer. I could have listened to him all day. The rabbi greeted us on our way in (and can I just say I LOVE this rabbi?), and the shul slowly filled up throughout the morning. If there's one thing I've learned though, it's to show up early for the prime seating in a big shul like that. I already mentioned the rabbi's sermon, so I won't go there, but we left right before Yizkor. I'm never sure whether to stick around for Yizkor, but my experience tells me that unless I've lost a parent or child, that it's more for mourners than people like me. I did realize, though, shortly after leaving that my grandfather did die this year and that maybe, just maybe, I should have stuck around. It probably would have made the rest of the day easier on my sleep issue, too. Services back at Hillel went fairly quickly (a mere two hours!), and I spent a bit of time up at the ark speaking quietly with G-d right before it was closed and Yom Kippur tied up. The shofar was blown and my heart sang, my lips curled into a smile, and I suddenly lost my light-headed/head-achy feeling.

The words of the prayerbook seemed to do more for me this year. I read the words and they did more than flip around in my mind for a few minutes. They echoed and swirled about throughout the day and continue to resonate in my heard and mind. The melodies enchant me and the entire idea of placing prayer above all else -- above all earthly and physical needs -- through fasting brings me to a beautiful place.

Essentially, I feel like I'm starting the new year with weights off my shoulders, my soul feeling light and as bright as the sun in the day and the moon at night. I know that my blog posts of late have been confused and frustrated, and I still am in that state of mind -- it's part of the Underconstructionist philosophy, you know. But I feel like G-d will be with me no matter how I walk the path, as long as I am walking forward and not backward.

And now? We prepare for Sukkot ! There will be THREE or FOUR sukkahs on campus, so I'm pretty stoked. Mostly because there will be one out here in the graduate quad for my using pleasure. The interesting thing? I've never observed Sukkot in any way shape or form before. I've always wanted to construct a sukkah, and when I was living in DC and saw sukkahs in people's front yards I was so jealous.

Until then, I wish upon you all the connectedness I feel with my Judaism and that you all continue on a forward-moving path.