As those close to me know, I reeeally don’t enjoy conventional prayer. I mean, I talk to God as much as the next Jew but I can’t stand conventional Jewish praying for the following reasons:
- I don’t like feeling pushed to the side because I’m a woman.
- I don’t like reading lots of text.
- I don’t connect to a lot of the text in the siddur.
- I actually have issues with a lot of the prayers. I don’t get showing such reverence to God as if He/She needs it and as if that creates anything close to a healthy relationship with our Creator. (There are other things I don’t get about the prayers in our siddur like talking so much about the animal sacrifices in the time of the Temples in Jerusalem. Yuck.)
- It’s boring.
Well, now I’m glad to announce that this Yom Kippur (which was yesterday), enlightened me to some of the positive aspects of conventional prayer. I actually enjoyed being in shul this year and I had enough time to try to figure out what it was about the prayers this year which made it meaningful. I think there are two things about the Yom Kippur prayers that make it more meaningful to me than regular prayers during the year.
There is nothing better to do
I know it sounds a little lame but hear me out. I spend most days of the year so distracted that if I ever attempt to partake in conventional prayer, I’m almost always thinking about the other things I could/should/prefer to be doing. Prayer can seem pretty unproductive when you feel like a busy person.
On the other hand, on Yom Kippur, there is really almost nothing better to do than sit in shul. You can’t eat. You can’t check your email. You actually very possibly don’t want to check your email. It is such a unique day for me in that regard. It is the one day a year that I really want to disconnect and do “nothing much.” And when you have really nothing much to do at all, sitting and reading from a prayer book or listening to the prayers being recited actually feels quite nice.
Yom Kippur prayers are so much about introspection. You are actually given a pretty thorough list of possible things you’ve done wrong so that if you choose, you can take the opportunity to try to think of what you did wrong over the last year and consider how you might improve yourself in the coming year.
Now that I can relate to. I don’t like the major guilt trip and I try not to let myself go there but I do try to think of what I did wrong and consider how I can try to improve in the coming year.
Yom Kippur rocks
Don’t get me wrong. I hate fasting and dread it every time. But this year’s Yom Kippur taught me a lot.
It made me realize that I really am unable to be still in my day-to-day life. My mind is so busy that I can’t allow myself time to just contemplate/meditate. And contrary to my feelings on contemplation/meditation (that it’s pretty bothersome and annoying), I don’t think it’s a waste of time. I think it can be very good for me and I’d like to see how I can add more of this into my life this year, even if it’s through conventional prayer! (Shocking, I know.)
I also realized how much I love Yom Kippur. It is by far the most unique day of the year, especially in Israel. The silence of the cities is awesome. The feeling that every Jew in the country is doing what you’re doing is just amazing. The feeling that we really all have “nothing better to do” than be together, because that is what we’ve all chosen for ourselves, is very exciting.
I honestly think that Yom Kippur might be my new favourite holiday. It is the day that has the potential to calibrate us. If we’re capable of stopping and listening to the silence.
Photo by chajm on flickr.