Monday, September 24, 2007

The Penitent Man Kneels Before G-d: A Yom Kippur Review

(Get the quote? You would be surprised how many people don't.)

The Dream

This year, I felt that it might be slightly more meaningful Yom Kippur if I didn't shlep my laptop home. Of course, a great deal of laziness factored into it, but the result was the same. Instead of puttering around on the web while those mighty gates were slowly swinging shut, I decided to take a nap between services. The best way to avoid the pangs of hunger is to sleep through them.

Or so I thought.

I've been looking on-line, but I haven't found anything that tells me about the affect of hunger upon a person's dreams. For my part, my stomach drove me into one of those dreams that seems so real that you actually wake up twice: one in your dream, once in real life. In my dream, I had awoken from my nap and wandered around my dead aunt's house, getting terribly lost in the twisting hallways. As I walked, things would appear to me and then disappear. I can't remember what they were, but I know that I mentally collapsed. Because of my confusion and terror, I hid in a bathroom and avoided going to the (dream) afternoon Yom Kippur service. Then, improbably, I decided to order from Pizza Hut.

I woke up at that point.

It really was a "what-the-hell?!" moment and I tried to ponder it as I quickly dressed for the (real) afternoon Yom Kippur service. I don't really believe in the meaning of dreams; they are just your brain replaying history and adding some of its own commentary in the process. But it still didn't keep me from thinking about it all through services and most of the break fast.

Was it just a yearning for Pizza Hut? Why would my brain keep me from going to services on one of the most important holy days of the year? Why was I in my deceased aunt's house? So many mysteries.

The Tears

My rabbi has held his post at my temple for about 35 years, which is an extremely long time for a notoriously wander-lusty profession. He has been there for all of my early Jewish life events: my naming, my kindergarten consecration, my bat mitzvah, and my confirmation. He has refused to directly answer my philosophical questions (a plus, if you know me), comforted me during the deaths in my family, and offered advice during my many existential meltdowns. He, forever and always, has my respect.

I knew this was coming, but I guess it didn't really hit me until the Kol Nidre service. He's finally retiring.

I think his leaving will be a turning point in my relationship with my congregation. It was his influence that truly kept me anchored to my hometown and my temple. There are two congregations in my college town, but instead of attending them, I sometimes walk down to Saint Agnes, the local Catholic church, and sit through a service. I suppose I would rather spend time in a space radically out of my realm than spend my Saturdays comparing some strange rabbi to mine. I would rather admire the beauty of the church than sit in some other synagogue's austereness.

But I have to get over that now.

There will be a new rabbi. He will be close to my age. He will probably not last more than two or three years. I might as well make a clean break of it.

Change makes me cry. But perhaps the tears will cleanse.


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