Yom Kippur went fairly well for me this year. I had some introspective moments during the services that were good for me. The fast wasn't too bad; the headache waited until almost 4PM to show up and my mouth felt dry but I didn't feel hungry. The break-fast at a friend's was a nice mix of sedate eating and lively conversation. (This is probably the most time I've spent in close proximity to William du Montegilt. Interesting fellow.)
I dislike the Yizkor service in the Reform machzor but I had overheard my rabbi tell someone else that he was going to do something a little different with his talk there, so I went. The talk was very good; I'm not going to share here some personal details he gave there, but the general theme was that we should make amends before it's too late not just because we might die but because the other might and then no apology or amend is possible. He talked about drifting away from people without clearing things like this up, and I found myself thinking of someone I went to high school with who clearly wants to have some sort of relationship with me, but I'm not interested because we have nothing in common but a distant past. What do I owe this person, I wonder? Is it sufficient to say, as gently as I can, that I'm not interested? Do I owe more? Thus far I have been ignoring the situation. (This is, by the way, not dissimilar to my reasons for not being on Facebook. If the only thing we have in common is that we attended the same school several decades ago, then no, I'm not really interested in getting in touch. There are plenty of people who represent much more fertile grounds for friendship.)
Now that my congregation has been using Mishkan T'filah for more than a year the style of Gates of Repentance, which is similar to the siddur MT replaced, is even more jarring -- the lack of honest English translations, the "creative" English readings that deviate quite far from what I understand of the Hebrew and its intent... it's bizarre. The political correctness in some of the English phrasing stands out too, but it also does in MT. On Yom Kippur especially, I want the image of a divine King. A divine Sovereign just doesn't have the same feel, you know? Fortunately they just leave "avinu malkeinu" untranslated; if that turned into something like "our parent, our ruler" instead of "our father, our king" I would twitch. I've been thinking for a while that I need to study a traditional machzor; I mentioned this last week and received a recommendation I will follow up. I'd like to have more fluency with the traditional liturgy before our services next year. (Were it not for the fact that (1) I would miss my rabbi's sermon and (2) it might cause offense, I would be tempted to seek out a traditional congregation for at least one HHD service, just to experience it. I did go to a Conservative second-day-RH service many years ago, but I didn't have enough experience at the time to really appreciate it.)
I went to the later morning service because I was planning to stay all day (and this meant I didn't have to kill a few hours between services; I've learned in the past that there's no good reading light in parts of the building I can get to). All of the torah readers were recent b'nei mitzvah; on Rosh Hashana, when I went to the early service, all the torah readers were adults. (They always invite the kids first; I guess it's harder for them to get there early? Dunno.) The readers were good to very good, and I wonder what we can do to provide opportunities to kids to stay engaged. Teenagers don't tend to come to the informal Shabbat minyan (where we have lay torah readers), and we don't have a lot of lay torah reading otherwise. Of course, it doesn't have to be torah reading; there could be other ways to invite them in. Of course, similar issues apply to lay adults who want to be more involved, so I guess it's a hard problem. (In my experience, Reform Jews expect their rabbis, rather than lay people, to lead services. There's a lot of pressure; I'm sure my rabbi catches some flack each time he lets me lead a Friday service, which happens once or twice a year. Mind, he also receives compliments (as do I), but that doesn't make the flack less annoying.)
The mincha service had something new. At that service we read the book of Jonah; this year members of the youth group (and some adults) staged a dramatic presentation (mute show while the text was being read). They had masks and props and stuff. It was well-done, and the person playing Jonah did a good job with body language. (The face was completely hidden and, as I said, the actors didn't speak, so that's all that was available.) Because someone had recently brought it to my attention I was listening for the last sentenece of the reading to see how it would be translated; it was softened, as it often is. I like the interpretation that Andrew quoted in his entry: "These people (the Assyrians, in Nineveh) are stupid and ignorant and evil and despised, yet even they would have been forgiven had they only repented. What’s stopping you?"
The ne'ilah service, at the end of the day, felt uplifting, as we stood there in community repeating our dedication to God and then hearing that final shofar blast. I felt like matters were, in fact, right with God at that point. Are we individually judged and sealed annually? Maybe, maybe not -- the thought that is most powerful for me at this time is kivyachol, "as if it were".
This entry is kind of rambly, which is how the day often feels to me. Lots to think about, only some of which I've captured here.