Monthly Archives: September 2009

Ritual vs. Content

Another year, another Kol Nidre: Each year our hazan seems to get slightly more pompous and ornate (and slow) as he chants the Kol Nidre on erev Yom Kippur.  This year he really made a meal of it: I timed him at 12.5 minutes to get through the three repetitions.  Considering that this is one modest paragraph of Hebrew, and that everyone is standing, and that the beit knesset is jam packed, hot, stuffy, and uncomfortable, this seems excessive.

As with many congregations, we get a huge turnout on erev Yom Kippur.  All the once-a-year Jews, many of whom have little or no Jewish education or knowledge, feel obliged to show up for the ultra-serious kick-off to the Day of Atonement. They associate this particular service with the chanting of the Kol Nidre, which is basically the prayer equivalent of legal boilerplate at the front of a software manual.  Do they have any comprehension of what is being chanted?  The mournful tune and the solemn proceedings seem to be all they need.

As someone who pays attention to words and their meanings, I’m always irked by the excessive emphasis placed on the chanting of the Kol Nidre.  It would be like having some grand diva sing a page from the phone book—beautiful to listen to, but devoid of spiritual content.  Ironically, there are many deeply meaningful passages in the prayers themselves (that is, all the “real” stuff that follows the Kol Nidre), but that is mostly lost on our annual drop-ins.

The other classic erev Yom Kippur phenomenon is that rabbis try to write the ultimate sermon to touch all these people who don’t participate for the rest of the year.  (I’m happy to say that our rabbi is a fabulous speaker and manages to hit a home run every time.)

Despite that, there is a sweetness to the Israeli practice of observing Yom Kippur.  Even the most secular honor the holiday by refraining from driving, turning city streets into playgrounds for kids on bikes, skates, and skateboards.  Everyone is out strolling, stopping and chatting with friends and aquaintances.  Many of them wear the traditional white.

Last night, after the fast was broken, I hear hammering up and down the street, as people start to put up their sukkot in preparation for erev Sukkot (this Friday).  Since I have one of those nifty pre-fab sukkot, and since I have no yard, I’ll assemble it in a friend’s yard over the next few days. Sukkot is a really fun holiday and always feels like such a relief after the heavy seriousness of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Check your clocks: We’ve already turned back our clocks.  Israel is always ahead of everyone else, so twice a year we are out of sync with the world when it comes to going on and off Daylight Savings Time.  This always leads to muddles; I’ve missed out on international conference calls because of this!

Typos of the Day

We need an editor, part 1:  I type “get autopay details from bank,” but the predictive text feature turns it into, “get autopsy details from bank”…  I know we always say the banks are killin’ us, but sheesh!

We need an editor, part 2:  Hat tip to Central LS.

Shana Tova!

Best wishes to all for a healthy, happy, successful, and peaceful new year (with some good friends, lovely food, decent wine, exciting travel, and a sweet doggie or two thrown in for good measure).

First Rain

It must be Fall: I wake to the wonderful smell of damp earth and ozone.  It rains again in the morning. 

Speaking of water… I’ve never seen a cat do this before.  Hat tip to LR.

Refu’ah shlema: President Peres collapses yesterday.  He is doing well and has already been released from the hospital.  The man is 86 and is one of the hardest working public figures you can imagine.  He routinely has long, intense days, often standing for hours at public events, enduring endless meetings, reading hundreds of pages of documents.  Just reading about his average day makes me tired. 

Oh, dear, didn’t we tell you?  So apparently UNIFIL forces got a heads up ten days before the latest Ketusha attacks, and they didn’t bother to tell us.  They told the Lebanese army, but not us, the targets of the attack.  Grrr…  Here we go again.

Slow down!  Last week’s train derailment has triggered the expected investigations. Was it sabotage or an accident?  The decision to slow trains down to a max speed of 80 kph is frustrating, because it doesn’t address the security issue or solve anything.  I ride the trains quite frequently (though not that particular line), and I will continue to do so.

Madonna is ho-hum, be we love Leonard: Madonna couldn’t come close to selling all the tickets for her recent Tel Aviv concerts, but Leonard Cohen is in hot demand.  Is this a sign of musical taste or politics?

Top prize: Movie “Lebanon” wins Golden Lion in Venice.

Llama? Llama lo?

Llamas in tutus: Gevalt. Hat tip to my sleepless-in-Great-Neck sister, Tracy.

Fear of the Day

Bet you weren’t worried about this:  Been using your keyboard lately?