Question for the Day

Sat through a really interesting presentation about bringing drums into davening during Community Time today at Hebrew College. Of course, the synagogues I tend to frequent do not permit drums during Shabbat or holiday services. However, every time this issue comes up, the clergy are required to explain their choices.

So, question for pondering today: 

Not so long ago, we were a Judaism of “Because I said so.” Some communities still are — and this is not denominationally driven. Reform Judaism makes choices that they justify with “Because we said so.” Orthodox Judaism of every ilk makes choices based on its understanding of the Torah, “Because we said so.” “Because I said so” was a good enough reason for me to listen to my parents when I was a kid. When did that answer stop being good enough to mean anything at all? Is it always good to have to justify every choice, every decision? Is it okay to just have “blind faith,” not in our God, but in our choices?


Feeling Exposed

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that on the eve of Yom Kippur I’m thinking about forgiveness. Just as the Rabbi spoke on Rosh Hashanah about the arbitrariness of New Year’s resolutions on a random day on the calendar, it seems to me just as arbitrary to pick a random day to ask for forgiveness from the people around us.

We have Ten days of Atonement each year. This year, these ten for me have kind of felt like a religiously prescribed timeout in the corner to think about what I’ve done. Productive, though? Yes.

But there is also something to be said about how to exposed I feel today. In preparation for my leading services on any other day, I dress up, I apply makeup, I give myself a manicure, and I put on my favorite earrings to match my outfit. I imbue myself with the confidence I require to do an excellent job. In preparation for Yom Kippur, just the opposite.

Today, in preparation, I took my makeup off. I took off all of my jewelry. I removed the nail polish from my fingers. I brushed my teeth. I showered. I took one last look at the text of a service which calls me unworthy and unfit for the task for which I am readying myself. Today, I tried to give myself confidence, but the text, which I have coddled the last few weeks and months, tries to bring me down.

I have nothing to hide behind. Not even the clothes I wear will show through the robe I’m wearing on the bimah tonight. And yet, Hineni. here I am.

It is with this humility that I apologize for everything I have done this year. With nothing else to think about, nowhere else to run, I am faced with my flaws today. I am faced with how my flaws affect those around me. for the first time in a very long time, I can only think about the way I have affected others this year.

In some cases, I have done good. I have positively influence the people who trust me most. I have had some good ideas, I have loved. I have learned. I have lived.

I have also gotten in my own way. I have prevented myself from actualizing my own potential. I have perhaps transferred this weakness onto a community. I have not created risk free environment where others can actualize. I have prevented my own growth, and I have stunted the growth of others. I have not taken advantage of teachable moments.

And yet, and yet. Hineini, here I am. Poor in deeds, unfit, unworthy for the task at hand, quaking in my boots with anticipation and fear.

Despite this, and perhaps, because of this, may we all be written and sealed in the Book of Life.