Elul 28th, 5767
As noted this time last year on this blog, I do not like this particular part of the Jewish year. The sentiments involved in this period of repentance are admirable, but their relatively recent elevation to the two most important holidays of the year is absurd.
Biblically speaking, Yom Kipur and Rosh Hashanah make a pretty poor showing. Vayikra 23:27 and 28 notes, “The tenth day of this seventh month is a yom hakipurim (day of atonements). It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall practice self-denial, and you shall bring an offering by fire before your God; you shall do no work throughout that day. For it is a day of atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before your God.” There are a few more verses on the subject, but no new injunctions are made; the remainder is simply repetition of the two verses I present here. Vayikra 23:24 says, “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts.” Tradition would claim that this verse refers to Rosh Hashanah, but being that the only thing in common between this observance and our understanding of Rosh Hashanah is the loud blasts and being that our ancestors use the shofar on all manner of occasions, I am doubtful of the connection.
Despite the relative biblical unimportance of these holidays, American Jews come to synagogue on these days, but not on the three festival holidays, Sukot, Pesach, and Shavuot, which, biblically speaking, are far more important holidays than Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kipur.
Since I do not like these holidays, I am hoping again this year that a change in the routine for these holiday will improve my experience with them. For Yom Kipur, I have been graciously invited to the home of a friend’s family here in New Jersey, about which I am very excited, mostly just to see my friend. The change in routine is really minimal. For Yom Kipur, I will simply be exchanging American Reform Outfit A for American Reform Outfit B.
Rosh Hashanah, however, looks to be very exciting. I have decided to try something entirely new for me. I have located a Reconstructionist outfit in a nearby town, easily accessible by train. I will, of course, report back with my observations on the so-called “Fourth Movement” on Thursday night or Friday morning.
Translations presented here are based on the New JPS Translation – Second Edition
ADDENDUM as of 6:35pm:
It occurs to me that I have not had a routine High Holiday season since I was in tenth grade. In eleventh grade I refused to go to Yom Kipur, last year I was in Israel praying at Kibutzim Lotan and Yahel, HUC, and an Italian synagogue in J’lem, and now I’m doing this. Hmmm….