Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A Primer for Yom Kippur

As we are very close to the start of the Day of Atonement, I thought that I might offer a short primer for the day. This little instruction manual is meant mostly for those who attend some sort of worship experience, but I suppose it could apply to anyone who is looking for a way to have a meaningful Yom Kippur. Please understand that given my position, I have a bit of a bias when I spout these gentle suggestions, but please know that they are meant with the utmost respect for all forms of observance. With that small disclaimer out of the way, I begin.

  • Do remember to eat lightly before beginning your fast.  There is nothing worse than sitting next to someone in shul for an entire day that is either flatulent or oozing that very familiar garlic odour.
  • Do remember to bring your own machzor (prayer book) with you.  There is nothing that says apathy better than walking through the door unprepared. Now, if you are going for apathy, then by all means come sans book!
  • Do participate when asked by the leadership. (Even when not! We love to hear people singing and joining in!!) The rabbi and cantor are there to facilitate prayer, not pray for you.  Although, if you feel that you need a bit of extra help with your atonement, let us know before the service and we will add you to our lists!! (Just joking-we don't have actual lists-just an ironclad remembrance of the year that has passed! ;))
  • Do wear comfortable shoes.  Yes there is a great deal of standing during this holiday and ladies who are trying to get through it by showing off their latest Jimmy Choo's are just begging for a painful day.  It is actually customary to wear rubber or crepe-bottomed shoes on Yom Kippur as opposed to leather.  There is Talmudic explanation for this, but I prefer to think of it as the rabbis sparing our soles!! (I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.  I guess this is one more thing that I need to atone for.)
  • Do bring your children.  The best way for them to learn about their heritage is to experience it.  We shouldn't hide this holy day from them, rather we should explain it in ways that they can easily understand.  If we never bring our kids to shul, they will never learn the importance of coming.

  • Don't eat salty foods before fasting.  Bubby's chicken soup may be a family tradition, but it should be off limits at your table.  Not only will all of the salt swell your already aching feet, but you will be desperate for drink throughout the day.
  • Don't show up to services two hours late and expect to find 4 seats together.  If you want to miss the beginning of the worship, you need to accept the inevitable.
  • Don't think that you are invisible in the crowd.  I see you.  All of you!!! I know when you are sleeping and I know when you are awake.  I see you leave and I see you yawn. I'm just stating something that you probably didn't know. You might think that you can slip out unseen, but in truth, YOU ARE BUSTED!!!
  • Don't think that you can leave at any time you want.  I know that this sounds a bit like a high school principal, but please try and understand that there are certain times when it is wholly inappropriate to start the exodus to the doors.  The Torah deserves respect.  When it is out of the ark and being read, you should stay put.  Sorry! But there are just some things that are non-negotiable in the Jewish worship service and this is one of them. Torah=butts in seats! Think of it this way- if you really are looking for atonement, a good way to go about it, is to not to piss off the One who grants it, by dissing His/Her law!!
  • Don't brag about your lunch plans to fellow congregants.  They may in fact be true, but in slightly bad taste for a fast day. 
  • Don't kiss the cantor until after the day is over.  The last thing I need is a cold, right before Kol Nidre.  I will happily smooch with anyone who asks after Havdallah!!

These are just some simple suggestions that will ease all of our worship time together.  (If it accomplishes nothing else, it will stop me from vaulting off of the bimah in the middle of singing Kol Nidre to whip the tar out of some boorish attendee!!) I hope you know that this is entirely (ok- somewhat) tongue in cheek.  I wish all of you an easy fast and a Gmar Chatimah Tovah.  May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life!

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