This is a big weekend and I’m not talking Trojan Football. It’s Yom Kippur, which means I’ll be directed to “please rise” and to “please be seated” several dozen times in shul while trying to remember my questionable decisions and off-color remarks and atoning for things I could’ve done better this year. I’ll also attempt to read Hebrew, which is a lost cause much to my mom’s chagrin since she’s the one who drove me to Hebrew school three times a week for years but the language didn’t ‘take.’
Every September, instead of going into deep reflection, I end up remembering Yom Kippurs from the past.
Mind you, I’m not remembering them to gauge whether or not I’ve become a better person this year. (I haven’t.) The memories are not spiritual despite the fact that I grew up attending services in seats my dad purchased near the front row where we were “closer to God” according to some at Temple Beth Am. Where did that put my best friend Liz and her family who sat in the balcony every year, almost in the back row? I always liked it better up there. Nobody flashed the stink eye for whispering. Trust me, there was plenty to whisper about: When are they going to serve the cookies to the little kids downstairs so we could steal some? How soon is this going to be over? If you brush your teeth did that mean you broke the fast?
When Liz and I got too antsy, we snuck downstairs into a dark room called “The Hall of Memories” where we hid and read the little brass plaques inscribed with names of the dead so they would not be forgotten. One of my grandparents had her name inscribed and I pointed this out to my friend. She was impressed.
At some point, I’d slither back to my seat and my dad and I would play a silent game of thumb wars. His big dentist hands were strong and I’m glad he never inadvertently dislocated a digit. Then I’d start braiding the strands of his tallit wondering how soon I could get home and eat. Had we not been expected to fast, I could have forgone food for days. It was the specter of being hungry that tortured me.
It still does. I don’t fast unless I’m having a colonoscopy. My boys don’t fast either. I’m a lousy role model, which brings me back to the whole atoning thing. I could be a more observant Jew. I’ll work on that for next Yom Kippur.