Funny story: So Yom Kippur is perhaps the most somber and important day of the Jewish year; it’s the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the Day of Atonement, the day our names our sealed in the Book of Life for one more year.
And Yom Kippur is tomorrow.
But my calendar (don’t trust calendars) implied it began last night, so I began fasting, trying to think of Yom Kippur things, and then I realized, today isn’t even Yom Kippur.
I want to write a profound and moving post about Yom Kippur. About atonement, about forgiveness, about redemption and revival. I want to write a poem about the pounding of my fist against my heart as I echo, in harmony with the congregation around me, the confessions of our sins. I want to paint a picture of the closing gates with such vividness my readers will forget they’re reading and think they are seeing into heaven itself.
But Yom Kippur is not about grandeur, and what else are these desires?
When our second day began, we took a short walk from our motel to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian across the street. After pausing for pictures outside, we ventured into the unassuming building and gathered in a small room where we saw a creation story animated before us. From there, the world opened up.
I’d like to think it’s not the only thing opening up today.
I’m writing this Friday night as I wait to leave for Kol Nidre, the start of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the final moment before the book is closed for another year. It’s fitting then, I suppose, that I should be reading the last teaching from the second book of the Pirkei Avot tonight. Today, when you read this, two gates will close.
It was this day two years ago that my life changed forever. After living a double-life for longer than anyone should be forced to, I came to a terrifying realisation that I wasn’t just gay and Jewish, I was a gay Jew. The feeling that coursed through me brings to mind the stories of the shattered vessel of Kabbalistic fame, wherein God’s breadth was too great to be contained that it shattered what had tried so carefully to hold it in. I became that shattered vessel: I had longed to hold God within me, but his breadth was too great, and I shattered.
One thing that irks me to no end is going to religious services and instead of being welcomed into a calm air of heartfelt love and prayer, being immersed in an ocean of chatter and discourse. True: Community is integral to any religious congregation, but isn’t the point to find religious fulfillment, not gossip and how-are-you’s?
When our rabbi gently whispers into the microphone, “Shh…,” people listen, take their seats, and soon thereafter such an atmosphere of selfless love is fostered and culminates in the utterance of what I’m most thankful for tonight.