This is a traditional greeting for the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur). For those who live with their heads in the ground (though this is probably no one who reads blogs) or just don’t live places with a large Jewish community, today was Yom Kippur, the closing holiday of the High Holidays. It is a day of repentance, atonement, and remembrance. Many Jews will mistakenly tell you that it is the most important holiday on the Jewish calendar. While it is good that people think this, I do think it is part of the problem with what I call “once-a-year” Jews. Cest La vie, everyone should observe their religion in their own way, I have just always thought it was goofy to only come to services at this time of year.
The High Holidays are a time to reflect on the past year and try to make the new year better. It is also a time of great pomp and circumstance at most synagogues. It is probably the only time of year that most synagogues require you to have tickets to get in the door and a pass to park in the parking lot. Some congregations go so far as to have reserved seating and getting seats closer to the front “costs” more (in dues or donations).
The Holidays are also a time when congregations give honors to people, usually people who have either given of themselves or given money. I do a lot of volunteer work to help with organizing and leading services, especially over the past six months while we were looking for a new Rabbi. Also, during the holidays my shul runs both a conservative and reform service, but we only have one rabbi and cantor so I was asked to help lead parts of both services (on different days). I am happy to help, I feel like it makes the holidays mean a little more to me, knowing that I am helping others have a good experience with them.
So this year I get my package with my tickets and parking passes and such, and included in that are two additional pages. Both are notifications of honors that the congregation gave to me. The first, however, was for the part of services that I was asked to lead. I would not really have thought too much about it save fore the fact that it was the same form letter used for the other honor that I was given. Leading services was something that I volunteered to do, the other honor was given to me as recognition. Both letters, in the same envelope, asked that I make a donation in recognition of these honors.
This is the thing that gets me every year, I give of myself because I don’t really have money to give, I volunteer to do things like lead services because the congregation needs help, and then twice in one fell swoop they are asking for more money? Tradition or not, it bugs me that this is how it works. The people who they honor who give money will most likely continue to give whether you ask as part of the honor or not. I understand the thought process, but it has never sat well with me.
All that aside and despite the fact that I had to race to work after all of the High Holiday services, I felt good about the holidays this year. As I said before, helping to lead services, helping to facilitate the prayers of others makes the holidays mean much more to me. In both Jewish tradition and in my personal life, music means a lot. Leading a congregation in song is one of the highest forms of prayer. It was a beautiful service this morning, and walking out knowing that the congregation felt good about the service is a nice feeling.
My mother likes to remind me that it is never to late to become a rabbi or cantor. While I enjoy studying my religion, I am not sure if that is for me. I have said before on this blog that I don’t know if I could really be a spiritual leader full time. I think the way that I have balanced my life works pretty darn well.