Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Before and After

Despite the fact these pages have been uninhabited for a week's time, I've been really busy and haven't had enough time to sit down and fill in the blank(s). Fortunately, I've got a bit of time before the fan hits the shit and I'm back to it 24-7. But before I resume my recitation of the various minutae that occasionally occupy my attention, there's something more important needing to be addressed herein.

Between last week and this week, I have been celebrating Rosh Hashanah and -- later tonight and tomorrow -- Yom Kippur, which, combined, represent the Jewish new year. Despite the typical American response to January 1st, which is -- in a word -- PARTY!!!! -- the Jewish new year is a strange holiday. As much as it is a celebratory holiday, it also is a time when jews around the world atone or repent for their sins/misdeeds/human behavior over the prior year. Inasmuch as the holiday is celebrated and ushered in in the context of optimism and health and happiness, there is a somber sense that some among us -- family, friends, colleagues, etc. -- will not survive through the year. I understand and respect this dichotomy, but it does puzzle me. Because we are conservative, we do much of our holiday service in hebrew. If I were authoring my own service, I would -- in very basic terms -- have each person write up a paragraph indicating what he or she had done over the past year for which he or she was sorry. There's lots that we do from year to year that -- intentionally or otherwise -- require or command repentance. The notions of regret and apology are part of this process, but in truth, the essential aspect of this process is acknowledging one has made a mistake (or several, or several thousand) and requesting forgiveness for same, both from the person or persons who were adversely affected by said mistakes, and by the big man upstairs (no, not Frank Sinatra).

In essence, this a very interesting period, not because it contradicts typical American celebrations on New Year's Eve/Day but because of the aforementioned duality thereof.

In either case, tomorrow will be a day filled with happiness and solemn self-thought, celebration and smiles and consternation and self-examination, and the ultimate duality, that of the daily fast set against the post-fast gorging. If there was any question, it's likely that no one ever lost weight due to a Yom Kippur fast; whatever weight one would lose by not consuming food during the day is decimated by the end-of-day pig-out session that occurs all over the world at sundown (local time).

In either case, for everyone who celebrates and/or observes these holidays, I bid you an easy fast and a healthy, happy new year.


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