So I am a bit slow on the uptake. Additionally, it’s hard to let go of preconceptions.
The communities I was raised in took Yom Kippur seriously. They were not traditional communities, in that people drove, the rabbis/cantors could be women, and the prayerbooks were often mimeographed pages from various sources (mostly English), stapled together. But a lot of people did fast on Yom Kippur, and it was celebrated on the proper day, meaning that people had to take off from work and school to make it happen.
Even when I began to pray in Orthodox communities, Yom Kippur was serious business. Hours and hours of prayer, much of it standing up. A thick prayerbook, used only for this day, that felt so heavy in my hands.
Then we moved to Israel. Where things are lighter. Literally – so many people wear white. With flip-flops (leather in your shoes is a no-no). Prayers are long, to be sure, but the services we attend are punctuated with singing and joy. And I realized, the hard work of this season is really Rosh Hashana. That is the day of judgment, but we try to beat it into submission with festive meals. In the days that follow, we scramble to give charity and make apologies.
But on Yom Kippur the burden is lifted, and it really is a holiday in the deepest sense. When the kids eat on Yom Kippur, they first must sanctify the day with grape juice and challah, as we would for Shabbat. (Now it’s only one kid eating on Yom Kippur. Bat mitzvah on the horizon.) That didn’t used to make sense to me – possibly because my grandfather, when he became too ill to fast on Yom Kippur, viewed his non-fasting status as a failure. But in reality I think it meant that he had to make a different approach – and people are slow to change.
May this be a year of acceptance of change and new perspectives for all of us.