Thursday, October 2, 2008

High Holy Days from the Goyim's POV

I am a gal in transition. Although raised Catholic - a religion I never fully "got" - I married my Jewish husband almost 8 years ago. Religion is just about the most personal thing I think I person can have. This note isn't meant to try to convert anyone (still not Jewish myself), but to explain my recent embrace of the religion for those who might not have seen me for, say, 20 years, and be thinking "Well THAT is certainly an interesting choice."

Catholicism never spoke to me, but recently Judaism has. Osi and I attend a Reform temple (that would be the sect of Judaism that believes women are, gee, equal. Oy, what a thought. Although, technically, I guess Conservative Judaism is down with gals as well). The prayers are beautiful and simple and speak to my soul. After Friday night services, I actually feel better; at peace, if you will. Even my very feeble attempts at making a Shabbat dinner and lighting the candles leave me feeling a little more nourished on Friday nights (and just not because I have added brisket, kugel and matzoh ball soup to me menu box).

No other time, though, is like the High Holy Days. For the past 4 years I have eagerly anticipated the singing of Avinu Malkeinu ("Our Father, Our King"). Sung properly, it is the most heart-wrenching, aching plea for God to hear our prayers, a confession of sin and a sincere request for the coming year to be a good one. It doesn't matter if you know Hebrew - or if you like Barbra Steisand - if you enjoy a good piece of music, check this out on You Tube:

The Kol Nidre sevrice at the beginning of the Day of Atonement is a very close second for a soul- cleansing experience. Kol Nidre = Neil Diamond's bit in "The Jazz Singer.

The fact that the High Holy Days com during the autumn, when there is a chill in the air and I get a little introspective anyway is just a bonus. Until this year, we had the most gifted "Artist in Residence", Danny Maseng, at Temple Israel in Columbus. Talk about someone whose voice is so very clearly a gift from God. His version of Avinu Malkeinu is better than Barbra's. Our current song leader, Bryan Zive (check out his band's page, Bryan Zive and Kol Echad - awesome) also does a fantastic job.

For someone for whom music has played such an intergral part of life, it is this piece of music that I can point to as the flame that ignited my interest in Judaism. The prayers, I find, are the same prayers I find myself praying at night. Requests to be a better person. Prayers of thankfulness for all of my blessings and praise to God.

I've yammered on long enough. Here is the gist: It is a beautiful religion that speaks to me. I hope everyone has a chance to find their own religion that speaks to and nourishes their soul.

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