Friday, October 14, 2005

My Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur this year wasn't as bad as I remember it. There was a point two years ago when it was crawling along somewhere in the middle of musaf and I swore to myself that I was going to tell everyone everything and that this was going to be my last Yom Kippur. It was just torturous for me. Obviously though, I got over it.

Yom Kippur started out slow. Wednesday night I had a full belly and was halfway asleep. In fact, during the Rabbi's speech and appeal, I actually did take a nap. Hurt my neck in the process though and my whole leg had painful pins and needles. Hard shul benches don't make the best beds.

I went to sleep early and woke up around 3 am. I just can't sleep for so long. But then I had some books around to read and I went through those until 7ish. Went back to sleep for a little while and then was woken up at around 8. I was feeling very well refreshed and was dressed, canvas shoes on, and ready in minutes.

Anyway, I was in such a good mood that during my shacharit davening, I don't know why, but I felt more at ease with my Judaism then I have felt in a long time. It wasn't as if I resolved any doubts or came to any firm convictions but all the same it felt so natural. Make of it what you may.

But after that I spent the day imagining the prayers as one long extended metaphor (suffice it to say, it got difficult at some points) and pondering various metaphysical theories of the universe (unfortunately, I didn't progress very far). I'm working on the idea of Judaism being just one way of approaching Existence. Maybe some of the metaphysical assertions aren't on the mark, but there may be a core of truth worth adhering to. I'm fairly sure that there have been many famous Jewish thinkers who didn't believe in every Yom Kippur tefillah that they said, but they said them anyway.

But, in any case, I think that imagining a perfect moral judge examining your deeds and thoughts is a great method for examining your own morality. Maybe you might think yourself justified in acting a certain way, but could you really convince a perfect omniscient superjudge of the same? Makes you think. And in that sense my Yom Kippur was a success.

Oh, and the fast was easy. But that's trivial, remember?

13 comments:

alex said...

A delightful post!

"I think that imagining a perfect moral judge examining your deeds and thoughts is a great method for examining your own morality."

How different is this from imagining that all your actions, public and private, will be shown on the 6:00 news? (This question is not an "argument" type question -- it's meant for exploration.)

respondingtojblogs said...

Despite my theological problems, I really enjoyed Yom Kippur, mostly because the liturgy is, well, awesome. I do not like the explicit appeals to emotion though (U'nesanah Tokef) and pieces that have overassumed their importance (Kol Nidre and UT).

Anonymous said...

i am finished with the bull. stayed home wednesday night came on time for yizkor thurs and found an empty classroom and sat there and chatted with some other guys who are not religious anymore. went home and didn't come back. a painless yom kippur

Mis-nagid said...

"I think that imagining a perfect moral judge examining your deeds and thoughts is a great method for examining your own morality."

That would be nice if the imagined god were particularly moral, which YHWH isn't. He is very particularist about His racial atitude towards humanity, and harbors bias against all sorts of people.

Also, your reimagining of Yom Kippur would work a lot better without the entire section of beyn odom lamkom, i.e. non-sins. Would you really still feel ispired by "imagining a perfect moral judge examining your" diet? And if you drop the lamkom "sins," who needs to imagine the god at all?

Orthoprax said...

Alex,

"How different is this from imagining that all your actions, public and private, will be shown on the 6:00 news?"

Rather different. Having all your actions made public may not be a statement on the morality of the act, but of your embarassment in doing it. Some people feel embarrased when they do the right thing.

The mechanism of a superjudge means that you have to examine your own thoughts and motives as well. Something mere publicity would never accomplish.

Orthoprax said...

responding,

"Despite my theological problems, I really enjoyed Yom Kippur, mostly because the liturgy is, well, awesome."

Really? I found some of it rather lame. I hold issue specifically with the "kol maminim" prayer.

Mis-nagid,

"That would be nice if the imagined god were particularly moral, which YHWH isn't."

Judaism is what we make of it, not necessarily what we have been given or what the "official" party line is. I certainly don't hold to any dogmas of the iron age.

"Also, your reimagining of Yom Kippur would work a lot better without the entire section of beyn odom lamkom, i.e. non-sins."

I agree. But I wasn't looking to find more friction on Yom Kippur.

respondingtojblogs said...


Really? I found some of it rather lame. I hold issue specifically with the "kol maminim" prayer.


I enjoy the liturgy as human expressions, not as theological truths.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of how "cold" my application of rationality may seem in day to day life, I always have a soft spot for certain liturgical pieces. But like you, Daniel, I was also pondering metaphysics (seriously, what other things are you going to ponder in shul? the atmosphere really isn't conducive to other philosophizing). I tried different substitutions for "God", but I just gave up and realized that the only reasons i wanted to participate were that I was bored and have an affinity for minor keys. Although, it is interesting to remember the emotions from the service last year, when I was still a god-fearing individual. I must say that Shulweis' Yom Kippur Sermon is the stopping point at the moment for me as an agnostic atheist Jew.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"I must say that Shulweis' Yom Kippur Sermon is the stopping point at the moment for me as an agnostic atheist Jew."

Yes, sometimes Shulweis does hit the spot. I have an affinity to Reconstructionist Judiasm myself.

Which sermon are you talking about though? He's made several. Or is it that you went to his congregation and heard him speak directly?

alex said...

Thanks for your clear reply to my question. Unfortunately, I see I wasn’t clear. When you said "I think that imagining a perfect moral judge examining your deeds and thoughts is a great method for examining your own morality." I thought you were talking about one’s morality in a situation in which you were tempted to do the wrong thing, not one’s overall “hashgafa” of morality. I meant to say “how different are the two systems in terms of effectiveness?”

Anonymous said...

This one. I didn't say I was quite a Reconstructionist, but they seem to have a core philosophy motre in line with what I (we?) could agree with.

Orthoprax said...

alex,

"I meant to say “how different are the two systems in terms of effectiveness?”"

In terms of how well it keeps a person acting morally? Well, if neither are considered likely events then they really wouldn't be directly effective in themselves. They become effective _only_ in terms of how well a person can analyze themself through the idealization of such tools.

anon,

Ah, yes, I've read that one before. R' Kook sure was an interesting fellow. I do appreciate the more ecumenical views of Shulweis and Reconstructionism in general. If what one believes becomes less important than who one is then I think the Jewish people become stronger for it.

Mis-nagid said...

"I didn't say I was quite a Reconstructionist, but they seem to have a core philosophy motre in line with what I (we?) could agree with."

That's the way I feel too.