Mark (mhaithaca) wrote,

  • Music:

Yom Kippur services (206.1)

I hardly ever went to religious services in Ithaca, either as a college student or after I graduated from Cornell. I tried the downtown synagogue briefly, but never really felt like it grabbed me the way the temple I'd gone to as a kid always felt comfortable.

I think there's a lot to say for the unusual circumstance that the rabbi at our synagogue started right after we moved to the community when Jeff and I were little kids. He was a youngster, a brand new rabbi with his first congregation, and in a very real sense he "grew up" with us.

Decades later, he's still the rabbi, and I've been back for services, especially High Holy Day services, numerous times over the years. Rosh Hashanah is the New Year, and is the start of the ten Days of Awe that end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. They're the most important holidays in Judaism, and while I rarely want to spend Yom Kippur, a long day of fasting, with my immediate or extended family, I often make it to a Rosh Hashanah family dinner and, when I'm there, sometimes services as well.

This year being what it is, religious services are largely online, which means I have the opportunity to join my family and the rest of the congregation for streaming services. They're offering both a Zoom link where everyone is muted except the celebrants and a shared screen with perfectly readable prayers and translations, and a YouTube stream where you just see the active celebrants and the shared screen. The prayers and translations and such look like a well designed makeshift prayerbook assembled by someone for exactly this purpose -- a streaming service that every congregation could share without each having to roll their own. The live prayer reading and singing is being interspersed with some recorded choral singing of prayers, and it turns out that's the temple's own choir recorded in past years. How handy that they had those recordings!

I could be watching on my TV using the YouTube feed, but I decided to stick to Zoom so I can see my parents and random other members of the congregation, and so they can see me. As I wrote the last paragraph, my mom texted to say she could see me! So that was worthwhile.

The rabbi's hair is a lot greyer than when we first met. That's OK, so's mine. The cantor who joined the congregation after I moved away is there, and she no longer looks quite as young. Girl, same.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of High Holy Day services, held back in the day in the auditorium of a nearby Catholic college campus (seriously!) because our old temple building didn't have enough room for everyone who came for these annual services. We kids often played outside for chunks of the day, trying not to get our nice clothes dirty or ripped.

I credit belmikey for my habit, which dates back quite a few years, of spending Yom Kippur quietly reflecting without bothering with services, outdoors if possible. I think the weather tomorrow will be perfect for sitting on my deck with the dogs, but this year I have the option to join my family without having to go anywhere.

The online services are strange. Novel. Utterly different from anything of the past. And yet completely familiar and comfortable thanks to my childhood rabbi and his familiar knack for telling stories. I'm glad I came.

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