Monday, September 20, 2010

"So Take These Words ...."

Yom Kippur, the holiest and most solemn day on the Jewish calendar, was Saturday. In English it's the "Day of Atonement," at the end of which the Book of Life is sealed; those who have taken care to make amends -- to the universe, to other individuals, to God and even, I think, to themselves -- are said to have their names inscribed for another year.

Jews are noted for their symbolic foods and for generally over-feeding people ... of course I was drawn to this group! But Yom Kippur is a fast day, with no food or water permitted (except for reasons of health or age) for 25 hours from sundown to sundown. Secular girl that I am, though, I didn't fast; I think it's medically unsound, especially the lack of hydration. But I did eat simply and refrained from snacks and sweets ... the best I can do.

So, since I didn't fast on Saturday, let me sorta do so here today and write a post without any references to food or restaurants or recipes. I've been told that my more personal posts are meaningful to readers, so I'm offering extra helpings of that today: some readings from the Tashlich [tahsh-LEEK] service -- a symbolic casting off of sins by tossing bread crumbs into the river to be washed away -- and from the Conservative Movement's beautiful new High Holiday prayer book, Machzor Lev Shalem [MAHK-sore layv shah-LEM].

These spoke proverbial volumes to me, reaching into my heart and my soul and nearly bringing me to tears as I assessed my character, my accomplishments, my failings and my blessings over the course of the past year ....

No one sees, no one knows,
how often I take the easy way,
I let myself off the hook,
give myself the benefit of
the doubt --
every day, every day.

On this day, this one day, I stand before You naked,
without disguise, without
embellishment, naked,
shivering, ridiculous.

I implore You --
let me try again.

by Merle Field
Machzor Lev Shalem - page 204

Let us cast away the sin of deception,
so that we will mislead no one in word or deed, nor pretend to be what we are not.

Let us cast away the sin of vain ambition
which prompts us to strive for goals which bring neither true fulfillment nor genuine contentment.

Let us cast away the sin of stubbornness,
so that we will neither persist in foolish habits nor fail to acknowledge our will to change.

Let us cast away the sin of envy,
so that we will neither be consumed by desire for what we lack nor grow unmindful of the blessings which are already ours.

Let us cast away the sin of selfishness,
which keeps us from enriching our lives through wider concerns, and greater sharing, and from reaching out in love to other human beings.

Let us cast away the sin of indifference,
so that we may be sensitive to the sufferings of others and responsive to the needs of our people everywhere.

Let us cast away the sin of pride and arrogance,
so that we can worship God and serve God's purposes in humility and truth.

from the Tashlich service

We abuse, we betray, we are cruel, we destroy, we embitter, we falsify, we gossip, we hate, we insult, we jeer, we kill, we lie, we mock, we neglect, we oppress, we pervert, we quarrel, we rebel, we steal, we transgress, we are unkind, we are violent, we are wicked, we are extremists, we yearn to do evil, we are zealous for bad causes.

Ashamnu, The Shorter Confession
Machzor Lev Shalem - page 404

And, because it's Music Monday, I'll also toss a song into the mix. This was played at the Selichot [slee-KOTE] service 2 weeks ago, at the beginning of the High Holiday season. Penitential prayers are recited at this time, as individuals begin preparing for Yom Kippur and atoning for any transgressions they may have committed in the past year.

I'm not a huge fan of the Goo Goo Dolls, but the lyrics to this song (once you get past the drivel someone added at the beginning) have great significance at this time ....

Now, of course, the challenge for this frail, fragile and fallible human is to remember these lessons and to act upon them daily. As the angel said, to try ....

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TeacherPatti said...

Mary, those prayers are beautiful, esp. the one about letting me try again. I did fast from 7pm until 6pm and as always, it was extremely difficult and made me question if God cares if I fast or not. I mean, is it enough that I try (but often fail) to do good? Or does that fasting really make that much of a difference? I'll never know until I die but I have to wonder!

Life Happens said...

What a lovely post. I think we all need to be reminded to cast those things that are bad for us out of our lives.

Thank you for sharing!

Cranberry Morning said...

The casting away of sins...all those mentioned are sins of character, sins that reveal our real inner self - the hardest sins of all to truly forsake.

I enjoyed this post.

Jenn said...

Wow, what can I say about such powerful words?? I love the first reading..but they are all moving! Thanks for sharing, Mary!

Yenta Mary said...

The first reading is my personal favorite, too ... that's the one that really brings me to tears. Tom pointed it out to me as we perused the machzor before Kol Nidre on Friday night. The simplicity of the words makes it that much more powerful, I think.

Patti -- I wonder whether I'm lax in not fasting, not at least going without food even if I won't go without water. There will always be doubt, and room for debate! The best we can do is to try, just as the angel said. We're human, so we're fallible; but if we at least have pure intentions, if we do our very best, if we strive for perfection and at least make progress ... that's all we can do. We can't go into it ready to accept failure, of course. But trying is crucial ....

Robin said...

I think desiring to do our best is all we can do. To truly want to always be our best self is all we can be. Sometimes we will fail. At that point, all that is left to us is to try again. I agree with you on that first prayer. It really is lovely in its simplicity.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love you right now Mary. What a powerfully written blog you given us all today - right down to the song choice. Merle Field's words have touch and healed me in a very deep and personal way that I won't soon forget. I came here this evening looking for some brunch ideas and got a mirror held up in front of me revealing my naked truth to me to myself. All I can say is God works in mysterious ways...our God is truly One God. Happy Yom Kippur.

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