Monday was my first ever Yom Kippur fast, and yesterday evening was my first Yom Kippur service. Maybe it was the hunger, but I was genuinely moved by the whole experience.
We had our pre fast dinner around five o’clock so as to finish in time to go to the evening services, dinner was pasta and copious amounts of water and by the time we left for the services, I was feeling pretty stuffed. Getting to the services proved to be a problem, we were going to take the bus (I know, I know, no shomer shabbas of us!) but the bus never came, and neither did a single empty cab. We waited for almost forty minutes and finally had to concede that we were not going to make services. This really disappointed us, but since it was the first time we were going to this particular synagogue, neither E nor I wanted to be showing up half an hour last (especially since SHARP was written in bold print on the synagogue schedule).
Having failed to make the evening services, we retreated home and I spent the rest of the evening feeling really thirsty and reading Jewish Literacy. I’m loving this book by the way, highly recommended for anyone considering conversion or who just wants to learn more about the Jewish religion.
Yom Kippur itself was unfortunately not as observant as I would have liked. I had an especially pressing meeting at work and while my work is pretty accommodating of various schedules and religious observance, it would have been a bit rich to ask for Yom Kippur off considering I am not as of yet, Jewish. So, hungry and battling a lack of caffeine headache, I went to my work meeting in the morning and then met up with E in the early afternoon.
We rested some, and I made the stupid suggestion of breaking the fast that night with burgers and Monday Night Football, and then we were off to afternoon services at the synagogue.
About the synagogue – this time we choose to go to what would be the closest synagogue to us, about fifteen minutes by bus up the street. When we arrived for the afternoon services, there were probably only fifty or so people there, all of them older, many of them clearly very “progressive”. This is a conservative synagogue, and many of the women were wearing kippas and prayer shawls and then general vibe of the place was a relaxed atmosphere. The rabbi was extremely welcoming, coming up to us at one point and introducing himself and later explaining how the services would go.
Now, I’m not going to lie, these services can be tough. I don’t read Hebrew (yet) and it is difficult to feel part of things when you have no idea where you are in the prayer book. I would like by Rosh Hashana next year to at least be able to have a sense of where we are in the book instead of just relying on E to tell me to turn the page. Still, the Ne’ila was beautiful and handled wonderfully by the Rabbi taking the congregation from solemnity of the recitation of sins to the blowing of the shofar (or in the case of this synagogue, the many, many shofars, there must have been thirty people up there with them).
After services we celebrated breakfast with the congregation and talking some more with the Rabbi. I got a really good feeling from the man, very warm and welcoming, if a bit left of center. He encouraged us to come back for Shabbat services, and I think we will.