Tuesday, September 18, 2012

High ???? Days

It's that time again. Rosh Hashana has come and gone and soon it will be Yom Kippur. The High Holidays bring up all kinds of issues for Jewish Atheists. Do I go to work? Do I attend services? Which rituals do I observe and which do I skip?

These aren't significantly different, of course, from the questions any Reform Jew asks at this time of year: once you make religion a matter of choices, then everything requires thought. I suppose the new question is why?

But let's begin with the what. Here's what I did:

1) A pre-Rosh Hashana brunch at my parents' house. We ate apples and honey and a round raisin challah, and it was my job to explain to my brother's kids, who are growing up "culturally half-Jewish" what it was all about.

2) Dinner at home with the fam for Erev Rosh Hashana. Mr. Jewess made fish, which is a bit of a treat since I went vegetarian a year ago (I'm trying to eat fish now because I haven't been getting enough protein) and we talked about our personal goals for the new year and our hopes for the world in the new year.

4) A morning family service for 3rd through 6th graders at our congregation, at which I read the prayers before and after the Haftorah reading.

5) Picked up some food at Whole Foods which we brought home and ate for lunch. I was hoping for kugel and brisket (and something vegetarian for me) but wound up with latkes and wheat berry salad.

Here's what I didn't do:

1) A formal dinner of any kind.

2) Erev Rosh Hashana services

3) Tashlich

4) A second day of Rosh Hashana.


Starting from the bottom, I've never celebrated a second day of Rosh Hashana and I see no reason to start now. I think it's a sign of the loss of focus I'm seeing within the Reform Movement that many congregations (including ours) now celebrate a second day of Rosh Hashana. We dropped it for a reason. For many reasons, actually, all of which had to do with logic. Now we're bringing it back because people want it. Okay, that happened with Bar Mitzvah before I was born, and I guess I'm okay with that, but if we're going to do it, there should be some reason, logic and meaning behind it.

The same goes for Tashlich. I've actually tried that, but it makes no sense and doesn't really move me.

We didn't get invited to dinner anywhere because my parents wanted to include my brother and he could only come for lunch Sunday. That's cool, although it was a little strange not having plans on Erev Rosh Hashana. I think if that happens again I'll plan something myself. I didn't go to services because Mr. Jewess didn't want to and I didn't care enough to argue.

Basically, I tried to bring meaning to everything that I did. Lunch Sunday, to me, was about family. I played in the playground with The Little Jewess and my niece and nephew and joked with my brother and his wife while we ate, so that was good. Lunch Monday was more complicated. I didn't really believe it was Rosh Hashana because I hadn't had "Jewish" (Eastern European) food. There's definitely that cultural bit there. But that's never been the whole holiday to me.

I think this time of year is one of the most healthy things about the Jewish calendar. It's a really good thing to think about what you can do better, and how you can help make the world a better place. The service I went to also drew some attention (just a little) to how we can be better parents. But I sat in services and thought about the prayers and what that word "God" means to me. I still find the prayers valuable, but I'm not sure to do when the prayers are particularly God-focused. Some of the prayers are asking God to help us. That's cool with me because I can just scan past the God bit and think of it as a metaphor, and then concentrate on the bit I want help with, realizing that I need to help myself or ask for help from other people. But thanking God for making me a Jew is a bit harder to comprehend when you no longer believe in God. What's left to believe in in that sentence?

So that's what it comes down to: What's a holy day when you don't believe in holy?

Which I guess is the point of this whole blog, really. Thoughts?

No comments:

Post a Comment