We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Each year at the start of the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, I ask a question, usually how to be more constructive and helpful in my personal relationships in general or with a special person. The answer eludes me and it troubles me that I can't see the way.
As I go through the days of prayer and reflection, various alternatives come from my mind, only to be rejected as too unreal or hollow or evasive or inadequate to the need.
On Yom Kippur, which begins tonight, the longest night and day of prayer, and of a 25-hour fast, the worry that I won't find the answer gets more urgent. My fear rises of not finding the answer. As my mind gets submerged in repetitious prayers and wanders, as I get more light-headed with hunger, as the prayers of repentance get more fervent, an answer always comes late in the day, from my heart.
It's never what I thought it would be. It is complete. It is not complex, though requires more focus, discipline, understanding. It always works for the coming year.
Life is only complicated when avoiding simple truths.
The miracle brings me closer to the person I want to be. It keeps me coming back for more.
Like Lent for Christians.
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Except that Yom Kippur is an isolated island of monastic denial in a religion largely focused on making G-d welcome in THIS world.
Here's another parallel - Lent has its Mardi Gras.
Similarly, "Yom Hakippurim" - the biblical name for Yom Kippur - can be literally read as "the day like Purim" - a joyous holiday in which Jews are supposed to drink themselves silly.
The point being: there are 2 ways to drop your mask and learn who you really are.
It always works for the coming year... It keeps me coming back for more.
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"Coming back for more" prayer, study and community before next Yom Kippur also "works for the coming year"
- unfortunately most of our brethren only show up in synagogue on the 2 most downer days of an otherwise joyous calendar.
Gmar Hatima Tova - may you be finally sealed for good on Yom Kippur (although the mystics and chasidim say that the final decree is on Simhat Torah).
Dear Mr. Kessler: Thank you for this post--it help to answer the question I posed last week. My question was about this subject. How do you get leaders within the Jewish community who have been criminal in their abuse of individuals--how do you get them to consider their action during this holy time? How do you discuss repairing the damage with them? Most importantly how do you discuss this subject when their actions are not accidental, but deliberate and intentional?
Re facultywife #4: You have good intentions but have misunderstood. The only one you can change or control is yourself - and that only maybe. Jews are a bottom-up community. The nature of the whole is determined by the quality of the individuals. This is why for all the world's socialist ideology, the only voluntary socialist communities that have succeeded have been the kibbutzim. All other successes have had deep religious convictions or charismatic leaders.
Don't stop trying to solve the problems you speak of, but don't expect success. Your work will purify you in ways you did not expect. You will shine for having entered the battle. That could be good enough for one lifetime's work.
I think a lot has to do with who you choose as your heros or people you most admire and would like to emulate. At 76 years old I can look back over a long lifetime of friends, family, workmates and casual acquaintances. I know who the good guys were and the sincerely good people and even the good traits of the simply average and normal people. It's hard to change habits and traits but having a model to look up to helps.