Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Reflecting on Yom Kippur - Part 2

Part 2

Now that Yom Kippur has come and gone, I have decided to change things up a bit and share with you my personal Atonement Day experience rather than posting for you my typical universal explanations of what the Holy Day is all about. I have been asked in the past to give "day-in-the-life" posts about Shabbos, so, with that request in mind, I am going to begin with Friday night bringing in Shabbos and end Monday night at the break-fast. Hopefully, you will find being a fly on MZ's wall for this year's Yom Kippur journey to be enlightening and entertaining, but, if not, than I apologize in advance for being a bore.

Saturday, 8:31am

Waking up and rolling out of bed. How nice! Mrs. Z let me sleep in while she took care of Baby Z since around 7:00. Very nice, indeed. I fell asleep very early for me, around 11:30, so that gave me a smooth 9 hours - about 4 hours more than I normally get during the week. In case you can't tell by my late night blogging habit, I'm a chronic insomniac - have been fore many, many years. Shabbos always seems to always be the one day I can fall asleep at a reasonable hour (anything before 1:00am is reasonable to me).

Shul services begin at 9:00, but I usually don't arrive til about 9:30-9:45, so soon I'll get myself ready. Meanwhile, our shul has several minyonim, or services, to choose from. There is the Shteeble Minyon, which is Chabad Lubavich style davening; Sephardic, which caters to the many former Israelis that live in my community who are of Sephardic background; Hashkama, a no-nonsense Ashkenaz style minyon for those who like to start early and finish early - usually done before 10am; Carlbach, the minyon of choice for me, which is the most lively with lots of singing in the style of the late, great Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach, and the Main Minyon, which is in the main sanctuary and has the most formal of trappings with traditional Ashkenaz davening.

This morning I decide to do the Main Minyon, as the Carlbach runs longer and I want to be home before 12:00. Mrs. Z doesn't go to services in the late stages of pregnancy, just too tough for her to do all that standing plus taking care of Baby Z. I actually take Baby Z with me most of the time to give Momma a breather, and she loves the festive, spiritual singing of Carlbach services, but today I want a quieter, more introspective prayer service, and Baby Z does not handle the more formal atmosphere there well at all. Baby Z will stay home with Mrs. Z.


OK, I'm out the door now. I live right across the street from the shul, so I walk out my back yard door, cross the road, and open the door to the synogogue. Literally a 1 minute total walk. I see a few friends when I arrive in the sanctuary, exchange a couple hugs and quiet greetings, and then begin to catch up on the davening. I made it before the Amidah of Shachrit started, so I am able to get up to speed without a hitch.


The Torah reading portion of the service is just about to begin and the gabbi (master of ceremonies, if you will) chooses me to go up to the bima and open the arc. This is a very meaningful honor, as in the Jewish tradition when one's wife enters the 9th month of her pregnancy the aliya of opening the arc provides them with the blessing of a healthy and successful delivery. How nice that they would think of me without my saying a word! Especially on Shabbos Shuvah! I open the arc on the bima in the front of the sanctuary, remove the Torah, hand it to the chazzan (cantor), he says the Shema, and I then follow behind him walking around the room. Congregants shake my hand as they kiss the Safer Torah scroll that passes through and up to the bima at the center of the sanctuary from where davening is led.


Services are finishing now. Normally, the main minyon doesn't finish up until around 11:30 or 11:40, but today there is no sermon at the service. On Shabbos Shuva (again, the Shabbos before Yom Kippur) the Rabbi gives a special Drasha Shuva sermon after mincha (afternoon service). Today that will be 6:15pm.

So, home I go and the wife is excited that I'm back so early. She already has the food being warmed for lunch and we're both very hungry - as is Baby Z. We set the table and I make kiddush at about 11:45. We have our scrumptious leftovers from the night before, and of course wine is on the table for my drinking pleasure.

After eating we are really hoping our little girl will go down for a nap. There is nothing better than getting in that good hour or two sleep on Shabbos afternoon. Fortunately, we are in luck - she goes down for a nap, and so do we.


Time to head over to the shul again for mincha. Mrs. Z and I both feel good because we got a good 2 hour sleep in, and we are looking forward to watching United 93 when Shabbos is over. Anyway, off I go to shul for prayer and then the Rabbi's sermon.


The Rabbi just finished his drash. It was outstanding I thought, as he discussed the powerful meaning of our "Aleynu" prayer that comes near the end of services. This prayer is very old, believed to be penned by Joshua himself as the Jews crossed the Jordan into Israel for the first time following Moses' death. It has been part of our Yom Kippur service since the 3rd century.

There is incredible historical significance associated with this prayer, which is essentially a daily affirmation for us to remember our duty as Jews to uphold our commitment to fulfilling mitzvot and behaving in a manner that is pleasing to God. That we are a holy people and we must do what is right. That we were set aside as something special and different by God for a reason and that we must uphold this by making God proud of His choice.

He tells us about how the prayer itself was a source of terrible persecution for Jews at the hands of the Christians from the middle ages through the 18th century because of a line that they falsely applied to be an attack on Jesus:

"For they bow down to nothingness and emptiness, and pray to a god that will not save."

Now, clearly Joshua was not targeting Jesus in the Aleynu prayer he wrote over a thousand years before Jesus was born. However, at that time in history Jews were hated so badly that anything at all would be used as blood libel charges to punish them. Many, many Jews were killed because of this line in the Aleynu prayer, and Ashkenazi Jews (Jews from Europe) had to remove it from the prayer altogether until modern times for fear of persecution. Self-loathing Jews who converted to Christianity would be hired to spy on synogogues, listening to the Hebrew prayers to make sure the line was omitted, and rat them out to the authorities if it was heard!!

Anyway, the point of the sermon was how the Aleynu prayer is near the end of service as a way to remind us that as we transfer ourselves from the pius confines of the synagogue to the real world we cannot leave our holiness behind. We must always be affirming our need to do what is good in God's eyes, in the sanctuary and out in the real world. Aleynu is the prayer we must not mumble indifferently as we fold our tallis, but say with feeling and sincerity as our affirmation for the day to come.


We light the Havdalah candles and say goodbye to Shabbos for another week. Now it's time to put Baby Z to bed, after she gets a sip of havdalah wine of course, and then time to watch United 93 on DVD!


Just finished United 93. Whoa...great, great movie. I was totally inmpressed by how the directors kept all the personal politics and sensationalism out of it and stayed true to the events as they took place. Tremendous. I am just left speechless as the movie turns black at the end. If you haven't seen it yet, let me tell you that you are really doing yourself a disservice. It has done justice to a subject that is very hard to be objective with. They succeeded, and boy do I feel invigorated to destroy islam from the face of the earth now.

End of Part 2



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