Monday, September 16, 2013

Well, how did it all go?

Every year, I write a post Yom Kippur wrap up, detailing the facts of my holiday experience. Here's this year's version:

Final Meal (We eat once, not twice)
  • Honey cake
  • Soup with kreplach, matzo balls and thick noodles
  • Roast chicken
  • Roast potatos
  • Israeli salad 
  • Chocolate cake
Daytime Services
  • Started at 8 am 
  • Finished at 3:15 p.m.
  • Started again at 5 p.m
  • Finished for good on time
  • Havdalah
  • Kokosh
  • Vegetable Soup
  • Various egg dishes
  • Talapia in tomato sauce
Other notes:
  • The Koren machzor, which I used this year for the first time, is wonderful. The translation is better, and more readable than Art Scroll's. Also, the commentary's focus feels more down-to-earth. Unlike ArtScroll, Koren doesn't take magic for granted. It discusses history skeptically and honestly and frequently provides wisdom from non-traditional sources. The discussion of charity that accompanied Unetanh Tokef, for instance, included a brief retelling of a Y.L Peretz story. When I read the Art Scroll commentary I feel like I'm in the company of a smart Rabbi who doesn't share my sensibilities. Koren, on the other hand, feels like it was written by a smart person, who happens to be a rabbi, and is also someone I'd like to get to know a little better. I'd ask for a second date with Koren, while I think I'd dismiss a shadchan who set me up with Art. 
  • As a people we need to do a better job of popularizing the names of our musical compositions. I'd like to be able to tell you about the wonderful melody our Chazan chose for Slach Nah, the finest of the piyutim, without humming it. 
  • Marriv's pizmon speaks of a brit and a yetzer. According to Art, the brit is the 13 Middos and the yetzer is the accuser who badmouths us to God. He thinks we're telling God to remember His mercy and ignore the prosecutor.  Koren says the brit is the deal God made with Noah to never destroy us, while the yetzer is our own evil inclination. I think Koren's reading is better. The poem, as Koren says, presents the audacious claim that everything we've done wrong is really God's fault. He created us as sinners, after all. We're just a piece of clay in His hands, etc, The refrain continues the audacity by telling God that he can't destroy us, thanks to his deal with Noah, and, anyway, the evil inclination he gave us is what caused all the trouble in the first place. Not a very frum translation, but perfectly in keeping with the text, I think.
  • This year felt a little flat. The power of the day didn't hit me as hard as it usually does. I have a few theories for why this was so. 
  • For the very first time, I can report feeling no annoyance whatsoever toward the people who read while the rest of us are singing. 
  • I say this every year: The four maariv piyutim, are jewels. A chazan who debases them with a bubblegum tune should be dragged out of the building and kicked to the curb (In my shul the chazan's selections were fine.)
  • The Rabbi spoke after Kol Nidrei, and did not speak at all on Yom Kippur (which is exactly as it should be.)
* For reasons I can't fathom, the Hasidic Jews, and those who wish to emulate them (also for reasons I can't fathom) have two, sit-down meals on erev Yom Kippur. There's nothing wrong with this.

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