A Tale of Two Yom Kippur Services
Here in NYC, I usually go to my Modern Orthodox shul. Why MoOrth when I label myself as reform? That's for a different blog post. Also, I just made up MoOrth - sounds like an abbreviation for a birth control pill! But sometimes I dabble in other shuls. And then regret it.
This Tuesday night/Wednesday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar where we fast and atone for our sins. It's a pretty serious holiday. This year, I went to two services that couldn't have been more different from each other.
For Kol Nidre, the Tuesday night service that kicks the party off, a friend and I streamed a service from a congregation that was... a little different. I heard good things about this shul, but I should have known I was in for trouble when I saw their website refers to themselves as "experimental" and "G-d Optional" (except they put the 'o' in the middle whereas I do not, but that's for a different blog post), but I still wanted to give them a try and wanted to avoid paying $100 for an in-person Kol Nidre. Nope. Here's how this service went down.
A lot of singing. You know those reconstructionist/reform synagogues that love their instruments and songs? I love instruments too, but picture hippies singing "YOU ARE NOT ALONEEEE" over and over in bad harmony. I felt like I was being indoctrinated into a cult. If that's your jam, that's cool though.
One of the prayers was displayed in Hebrew (traditional, cool), English (for us slow Hebrew readers, thanks), and... Arabic? Did they explain why the prayer was in Arabic? Nah.
The rabbi's sermon was about a Holocaust survivor who treated his PTSD through LSD, and his memoir about it. Sounded like an interesting book, but A) I didn't get the connection to Yom Kippur, and B) the rabbi was realllyyy going on about LSD. Like, a little too much. I still added the book to my Goodreads list though.
They replaced "Adonai" (Can I write that in a blog? Too late.), a name for Gd in prayer, in the Shema with a Hebrew phrase that translated to "I wrestle with existence." THE SHEMA. The whole point of the prayer is to affirm your love of Gd. "Hear O, Israel, I wrestle with existence..." Israel doesn't care about your wrestling match. If you grapple with existence like the rest of us, that's great, but don't change the most sacred prayer in Judaism to make your point. If you couldn't tell, I'm a wee bit traditional. I also love appropriating Scottish culture.
Then I went to my MoOrth crew for day service, which I can't say anything bad about because the woman who coordinates it reads this (jk, Rachel!). There were some cool tidbits, like...
A TRADITIONAL SHEMA PRAYER.
The fun part in the service where you beat your chest like a gorilla when you run through the list of sins you've committed in the past year. I say fun sarcastically, but the beating does wake me up a little. They kind of did that in service #1, but the hippies were more like rubbing their chest in circles, like feeling their sins up. Maybe that's what they mean by experimental!
The rabbi painted a really cool picture of what the holiest day of the year was like at the holiest place in the world for Jews, i.e. The Temple from ancient times. I felt this collective energy as we ran through the prayers with kohanim (male Jews belonging to a patrilineal line claiming descent from Aaron. They served as priests at the time of the ancient temple and are special. Fun fact: the Vulcan salute from Star Trek comes from the Kohan priestly blessing!). As a history nerd, it was cool to imagine myself at the temple of all temples, even though I probably wouldn't have been allowed to pray there... but that's for another blog post!
The rabbi's sermon: not about drugs and very practical. In fact, it was called Judaism's Psychology of Change. He talked about the five stages of change:
Pre-contemplation: You don't know you have a problem.
Contemplation: You know you have a problem, but you don't know the solution and feel stuck.
Preparation: You're planning to take action and are making final adjustments to get ready for the big C word. Change.
Action: You modify your behavior and/or surroundings. This stage requires the greatest time and energy.
Maintenance: Change never ends at action; it requires commitment. The most successful "changers" go through these stages three or four times before they make it through the cycle without one slip up.
The moral of the story is sometimes it's worth it to realize what's not for you. That's how you get one step closer to finding your tribe. Speaking of you, from time to time, I'll pose a question. Feel free to journal about it, chew on it, message me privately and have a chat about it, OR (preferably) respond to the newsletter, and if I'm impressed by your answer, I'll post it anonymously in the next one! This week's question is:
What's something in your life you're trying to change, and what stage are you at according to the five stages above? Do you feel like you're almost there, or not? I'd love to hear about your journey.
May we all be inscribed (and sealed) in the great book o'life. Thanks for reading. Shabbat Shalom.