18 September 2010

A Come-As-You-Are Yom Kippur

(I made a post on Fiftypercenters.com just before Yom Kippur: visit it there, or read it here!)

Just hours until sundown, and I feel even less prepared for Yom Kippur than usual. The High Holy Days always take me somewhat by surprise (what? already?) -- and, with the joys of celebrating Sukkot with our community to look forward to, I anticipate the more shul-heavy Days of Awe with less enthusiasm than when they were the main events on my fall religious calendar.

And this time I have even less sense of what to expect from my Day of Atonement -- yes, even less than last year. Then, as a new mom with an 8-week-old, I knew I'd just be going with the flow, and not fully fasting -- I spent maybe an hour or so midday in one of the main adult services, nursing the baby under a cover during the repetition of the Musaf amidah, and nursed her again in the back of the late-afternon children's services, where the prayer leaders took suggestions from the kids of things they were sorry about and had everyone sing them back together, in the melody used for the traditional Ashamnu (an alphabet-acrostic catalogue of communal sins), confessing to "Not listening" -- "Saying mean things " -- "Hitting my brother."

Now I can foresee that my Shabbat Shabbaton will not exactly be a day of complete rest and reflection, with a one-year-old in tow. (Babysitting services for the holiday at the synagogue we go to here begin with age 3, so no luck there!) I'm running between parts of my lives, trying to finish up work I need to do, make sure we all get some food before sundown (even if not all of us are going to be fully fasting for 25 hours), get some shul clothes on, and get to Kol Nidrei (maybe).

For some people, the High Holy Days are time to dress up -- one way of manifesting the importance of the holy day: even if we no longer think of God as a king (a recurring image in the High Holy Day liturgy), shouldn't we at least show in our sartorial choices that this date with the divine is a significant event?

Me? Over the years since I became more observant & involved, my Yom Kippur dress has often been less, not more, fancy: if you go for the custom of wearing white and eschewing leather shoes, you may well end up wearing a long white cotton skirt, a not-exactly-matching-but-close-enough long-sleeved cotton shirt, and anything from sneakers to flipflops on the feet. And that's fine: it works for me, and even if some other people are wearing suits & hats, no one ever gives the impression that I'm not suitably dressed. :)

But this year I feel that it's even more a "come-as-you-are" Yom Kippur, inside & out. I'll be there when I can, for what I can, wearing what I manage to pull out of the closet in the minutes before we have to wrestle the baby into her stroller and walk out the door. Maybe I'll have been able to grab a shower -- maybe not. Maybe I'll have had some epiphany that makes me feel prepared for the day -- more likely not.

But I can say hineini -- "Here I am" -- and see where the day takes me.

On the eve of Yom Kippur 5771, I wish you all a year of blessing and abundance: shalom!

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