Friday, September 21, 2007

The Yom Kippur That Isn't

So I had this whole Yom Kippur post I was working on. I was struggling with it, trying to find a way to say that it's a very important and necessary holiday, but one I struggle with, especially in my current situation. The liturgy is such that there is a lot of prostrating oneself before God and tapping one's chest while reciting sins you and the community have committed. Much of the service uses the allegory of The Book of Life for the coming year, ie, that God is--as we speak--either inscribing your name in it, or He is not.

Maybe I struggle with it because the fact of wondering if I’d really be around next year was a little bit too real sometimes, and perhaps because the notion of begging God for forgiveness so you can “live” just seemed like too much self-flagellation for a human with a modicum of dignity. Not to mention my thoughts at various times during the past year wondering when God Himself, if he had a shred of decency, was going to pick a day to fast and apologize for his sins of commission and omission involving ME.

Having said that, I do recognize that the entire purpose of the holiday is to act and think with humility and without self-satisfaction (hence no stiff-necked “too much self-flagellation!” declarations). It is to get you to a place spiritually where you are able to be honest with yourself and God about what atonement is required and what work you need to do to be a better person in the coming year. I do get it. I understand it. I just find the liturgy to be a stumbling block to me really embracing the holiday especially during seasons when one’s life is not awash in sunshine and lollipops.

I guess my ambivalence is coming from a desire to not be ambivalent. I don’t want to go through the motions of atoning where I end up mouthing some insincere pseudo-confession that just ends up being one more instance of the very sin I’m supposedly confessing. I’m not committed to being a lying, thieving, defaming jerk in 5768; I just don’t really feel like I’m in a place where I can credibly and spiritually do right by the intent of the holiday to atone for 5767.

So this is the Yom Kippur 2007 post that wasn't. I was trying to find some articulate and learned way to say that I'm taking the year off from atoning. I had words by Martin Buber, the Rambam, you name it to try to explain. But all those wise words still failed to convey the nuances and shades of how I am feeling this time around.

And then I remembered this, which nails it like only this philosopher can:

There's an empty spot I've always had inside me. I tried to fill it with family, religion, community service, but those were dead ends! I think this chair is the answer. --Homer Simpson

No comments: