Such strange feelings in advance of the event. And actually, they are emotions I have experienced before. But on this occasion they added up to, let us say, a general sense of intensification of ritual space. More precisely, I decided to let them sum themselves in this particular fashion. Meaning, that I was open to the possibility. Ready for it. And in the end what was there to say but ‘Happy New Year.’
Thus, Rosh Hashanah 2013. A.k.a., 5774. And trust me, I had to look up the latter. Okay, it was emblazoned across all of the materials at this morning’s service, but still I forget things I never knew. No Jewish upbringing. No Jewish background. No Jewish anything, except exposure to some family members…and whatever attitude naturally gets picked up along the way.
So why bother? Although, really, why be bothered…was the current question. For I had some anxiety about turning up at my congregation for this year’s festivities. I had to read a few paragraphs of Genesis…in English, I stress…and honestly, it’s not all that clear to me who Hagar is. Let alone how to pronounce her name, having determined in context that the name belongs to a her. And for some reason in past years all this made me fret and cringe. I am supposed to know, it seemed. Now I know that I don’t know and know that it doesn’t matter.
For I was vaguely aware of one important thing, that many of these people, including several I barely know, had turned up at my wedding. And that their spirits added to the general spirits. Quite effectively, in fact. Word of the wedding had gotten out even among those who weren’t in attendance. Several people came up to me before services started this morning to let me know that they had heard about our Episcopal/Jewish ceremony. Naturally, and rather skillfully, billed by Jane as ‘hopelessly muddled.’ One of those small touches that set the stage for a big success.
So this was in mind, this general sense of support from a community and wanting to give some of that support back. And I was nervous. Getting up before all those people and somehow messing up. Yes, a crowd, everyone focused not exactly on me, but on what I was doing, my part in things, that can heighten an experience. And this year I decided to read it that way, the general stage fright and mild paranoia…as an intensification, a positive one.
Judgment day, for it can be seen that way, Rosh Hashanah. Whose judgment? What needed judging, and who was to do it? The simple answer being that lots of judging has been going on these days, thank you very much. I’ve had to make some judgments about an ongoing family dispute. And I’ve tried to judge wisely. Maybe this is a sort of cut off day for judgments. The results are in, whatever they are, and whatever action is being adjudicated. And so what is supposed to happen between now and Yom Kippur? Is the jury out? Or are cases on appeal? All of which tells me that I’ve got mildly into it, the high holiday experience.
And what is one to make of the remainder of the Days of Awe? This year I am going to be mostly awestruck in Minnesota, site of the annual men’s conference I have attended for…can it really be 17 years? Which is itself something to celebrate. Will I fast next Friday? Get together with a few other Jews for some sort of recognition? Perhaps. Most importantly, I will be in an atmosphere that is all about consciousness. So I see Sturgeon Lake’s version of Yom Kippur in a very positive light. Something good will come of it, I can see that.
What must be factored into all of this is that other thing, the aging me and this conference. There are aspects of it that always challenge. How much harder will those challenges be this year? And precisely what is worrying me? Perhaps a general sense of facing the inevitable end of conferences. Although it must also be said that the Minnesota conference experience is all about adaptation. It is in the air, and certainly in the general example of those aging around me. Judging and judgment. What will I decide about myself and my own future?