Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yom Kippur report, etc.

First, the prequel:

Tashlich "tantrum"

"How long are we going to keep doing this?"

"Oh, no," I thought, "my husband's fed up with our annual Tashlich subway schlep." Every year, sometime between the day after Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), or, if worse comes to worse, at least before Hoshana Rabbah, we have to hop on the subway to do Tashlich, since there's no available free-flowing body of water within walking distance of our home.

But apparently, the trip wasn't the issue.

"This is paganism. The rabbis opposed it, and so do I."

Oh. That.

The then-rabbi of the synagogue where we met and were married was of the opinion that Tashlich originated as a pagan sacrifice in which people sought forgiveness from the river god(s). His theory was that the rabbis, having concluded that they'd lost the battle against Jews being influenced by this practice, won the war by adding a psalm or two and turning the sacrifice into a tradition that our sins are being cast into the depths, or, perhaps, to the more popular mind, that we're feeding our sins to the fish (and/or, depending on where we do Tashlich, to the ducks [79th Street Boat Basin] or the sea-birds [Chelsea Piers]).

"You don't have to be so literal. Just think of it as a hope that our sins are being cast into the depths. If it really bothers you, just say the psalms, and don't bother throwing the crumbs."

Final verdict: Fun wins over logic. He said the psalms and threw the breadcrumbs.

Yom Kippur

I started off the holiday on the wrong foot by completely forgetting to do Minchah/Afternoon Service on Sunday, because I was so busy taking care of business (literally--I was writing checks) and making the pre-fast meal at the same time. Yet another sin to add to the list. :(

The Kol Nidre service went pretty well. The Shacharit/Morning Service was . . . well, overdone. The between-jobs rabbi whom we'd hired didn't have a good feel for which parts of the service to sing slowly and which ones he could sing at a faster speed, so everything sounded like an aria. Bottom line: Shacharit took at least half an hour longer than it should have, and we had only one hour, exactly, to rest between Musaf and Mincha.

There were, of course, the requisite man and woman dressed thoroughly inappropriately in blue jeans. No, they weren't related to each other, and were not seated near one another. (Yes, the woman's blue jeans were pants, but she wasn't the only woman there in pants.) And so many women were dressed completely in black--contrary to the minhag/custom of my parents' synagogue and of my first synagogue in New York, in which wearing white on Yom Kippur was practically an entrance requirement--that there seemed to be neither any possibility of, nor any point in, trying to explain the minhag to all of them.

On the plus side, my husband did a pretty decent job of chanting Maftir Yonah (the entire book of Jonah, plus a few verses from elsewhere), and, considering that he had maybe a month's notice to practice, a reasonably decent job of leading Minchah, as well.

High point:

Realizing that I can now davven/pray quickly enough to say the entire Yom Kippur Amidah prayer (except for the Amidah of the Neila/Closing Service) in Hebrew, rather than having to switch to English to catch up in time for Kedushah. For the record, I'm not yet fast enough to say all of the Rosh HaShanah Amidah in Hebrew, so I switch to English for the parts over which I'm stumbling. I refuse to miss the U-N'taneh Tokef prayer.

Low points:

  • Watching a third of the attendees walk out immediately after the Yizkor (Memorial) Service. It's depressing to see so many people take advantage of a free service offered to the entire Jewish community by a dying congregation, knowing that many of these fine folks are not only never going to become members, but some may choose not to make a contribution, either. And if the synagogue building is sold and torn down by next Yom Kippur, will any of these people care that a long-time member like me no longer has her own local shul in which to say Yizkor for her mother, or will they only kvetch/complain that they have no place to pray?
  • Realizing that, since I've not yet developed the ability to davven both quickly and with kavvanah (focus, intention), and that, consequently, keeping up with the shaliach tzibur/prayer leader means going through my tefillot/prayers on autopilot, I got little meaning out of this year's Yamim Noraim/High Holiday prayers. Sadly, I can say the same of my davvening at morning minyan, as well.

And, to boot, holding a siddur/prayer book for hours on end aggravated the carpal tunnel of my left thumb, so back to the occupational therapist I go.

Paranoia, or just world politics as usual?

Is it just me, or do you also think it's no coincidence that Iran tested its new missiles on Yom Kippur? Oh, I guess it's not me--Jameel got there first.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Save yourself from carpal tunnel- bring your own shtender. Put your siddur up on it, lean against it during Neilah if required, etc. Walking home last night I saw several frum families with the young teens dragging behind with light weight shtenders from shul.

Tue Sep 29, 06:54:00 PM 2009  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

To support your husband, if you do Tashlich with throwing of bread on Rosh Hashana, you are sinning because one is prohibited to feed wild animals on Yom Tov. So not only is it's origin Pagain (though in fairness, you'll be hard pressed to find a Jewish custom that can't be tied to the Pagan custom that it adopted), the practice of doing it on Yom Tov violates Torah Law!

Tue Sep 29, 09:06:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Tevel said...

I thought the halachos was that you couldn't put food directly in front of wild animals on Yom Tov. If I throw bread that an animal then finds and eats, I didn't put the food directly in front of it, did I?

Wed Sep 30, 12:20:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

A shtender sounds like a good idea, in theory, Anon. Unfortunately, my synagogue is too traditional to allow women to have aliyot, but not traditional enough that many of its members would even know what a shtender is. Truth to tell, I wouldn't even know where to buy one! But before I start doing research, I'd better check to see whether I could find a place in the sanctuary to put one.

Miami Al and Tevel, the question of whether it's permissible to throw food to and/or in the general direction of wild animals on Yom Tov didn't even occur to me. I'm in the "sheh-eino yodeia lish'ol (a person who doesn't know to ask) category on this matter--it wouldn't have occurred to me to ask a question because I didn't know that there was a question that needed to be asked.

Wed Sep 30, 01:20:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

I've also been told that feeding the fish on Yom Tov is not permitted, which is why I usually do tashlich again between RH and YK. I also don't like the O version of tashlich, which is 'let's walk down to the local stream, seperate by genders, mumble a bunch of psalms and related texts, and then hang gossiping until people are ready to leave.' When I lived in MA we would walk down to the river (gossiping the while I admit), listen to a few people reading short text selections either of their own composing or of their own choosing, and then we'd all stretch out along the river bank in solitary contemplation of what sins, bad character traits, or bad experiences from the past year we wanted to throw away. Then we'd all walk back to shul together.

Wed Sep 30, 02:41:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Oh and I would bring leftover matzah from Pesach to throw into the river, which almost closed the circle by which I lit the fire to burn my chametz using my lulav as kindling.

Wed Sep 30, 02:42:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Larry, you do Tashlich *again*? I didn't know that reruns were permissible. :)

I like the idea of using matzah. But usually, now that it's just the two of us, and we don't have a challah-loving son still living at home to demolish the leftovers, it's actually helpful to get rid of some bread. :)

Wed Sep 30, 04:56:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

In my eyes tashlich isn't magical or mystical. It is just one way to help with conducting a cheshbon hanefesh. No one says you should only engage in each technique of self examination once, right?

Wed Sep 30, 05:25:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Cheshbon Hanefesh," he says to the wife of an accountant. :)

"No one says you should only engage in each technique of self examination once, right?" Good point, Larry.

Wed Sep 30, 05:29:00 PM 2009  

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