Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yom Kippur 2012

This is the fourth Yom Kippur since we moved to Iceland and it can be a difficult holiday. This year as it approached I did not feel connected, didn’t feel the push to make the effort to go to Reykjavik for services.  I was conflicted but took the attitude of, “it is what it is”.  We shift through stages and this is where I am this year.
After teaching I returned home for dinner and as I was getting the kids ready for bed I could feel the imposition of Yom Kippur begin to envelop me.  After reading two stories I spoke to them about Yom Kippur, about the seriousness of the day and asking for forgiveness. I explained that Jews all over the world were choosing to fast and go to synagogue all day. I encouraged Zelia toward self-reflection about past behavior but she stayed focused on the wrongs done to her. I apologized to her for my lack of patience when it was most needed. Then I pulled Itzhak Perlman’s new Kol Nidrei up on youtube and we lay in silence and listened. The gravity of the day could not be ignored any longer.
You may know that Kol Nidrei is in Aramaic and not in Hebrew and so Zelia asked me what he was singing. She was entranced, as so many of us are, by this almost magical prayer. I explained, somewhat incorrectly, that he was asking for forgiveness from G-d and thinking about being a better person in the coming year. Kol Nidrei caused a controversy when it was added to the liturgy; a problematic plea for nullification for the promises we will make and break in the coming year. I hold the same discomfort with it as those did from centuries ago. Yet in this soulful plea there is an acknowledgement of our frailty as human being to tend toward weaknesses, toward imperfections. In its plea for forgiveness of future failures we recognize that we will fall short of our best intentions to be better, to try harder – this sobering knowledge is at the heart of the human condition.
The children slept and the night fell heavily. This morning too felt different. Jacob and I had a moment to speak about our shortcomings with each other and asked a heartfelt forgiveness from Zelia. Zelia, herself, wore the seriousness of the moment and without wanting to share any words went and gave Lazer a big, quiet hug. So, for the first time in my life, I have experienced the raw gravity of this day, which I found imposed on me without choice of action on my part to attend synagogue or fast. The weight of being a Jew and living a Jewish life simply became an expression of my life.