So the new year has come and gone. I went to services on Sunday night and Monday morning, though I reached a point in the services on Monday where things had become too overwhelming, my lack of food was starting to get to me (not a good omen for Yom Kippur, but we’ll see how I fare), and I just needed to get out, so I left. I wish I’d stayed through the third sounding of the shofar, and for the community taschlish, but I didn’t have it in me, so I left, got myself food, and then had a leisurely walk home in the mid-September sunshine.
When all is said and done, I think I got more out of Sunday night’s service, both because it was a moving service, and because I found that I could follow along with more than I expected. Sometimes I was just able to pick up the melody of the chant, others I managed to find the right prayer in my transliterated siddur, and still others where I found myself being able to remember snippets of the Hebrew, even when I couldn’t find the prayer in time. This was hugely reassuring to me, because I’d feared that I would be lost the entire time. I was still lost at certain parts, but overall, the service seemed to fly by, and I left feeling peaceful.
Monday morning dawned and I’d gone to bed late due to a vicious bout of nasal allergies brought on by the resurgence of pollen in the area, otherwise known as the bane of my existence. I got to the synagogue about fifteen minutes late, but things were just getting under way. First though, I had to find a seat. The previous night had been surprisingly empty – the entire bottom section was filled, but the top was not filled to capacity as I’d thought it would be. Silly me, I thought the same thing would hold true the following morning, but of course, it did not. People crammed into pews together, chairs had been set up, and some people had resigned themselves to simply standing. Luckily, I found a seat, and sat down next to a very nice woman who had a beautiful singing voice. But I didn’t connect with this service nearly as much as I had the night before. Perhaps it was the lack of familiarity with the liturgy, the greater sense of not being sure what was coming next, the length, hunger, heat, tiredness – but when 12:30 rolled around and we were still in the middle of the haftorah portion, with blessings being chanted in between passages (services had been meant to end around 12:15), and a good chunk of the liturgy left as per the siddur, I reached my limit. Others had left before me, and I felt guilty, but it wasn’t a spiritual experience for me anymore, not after three hours. Maybe next year will be better and different.
I came home and finished cooking a delicious dinner of way too much food: round challah, roast beef with sour cream and horseradish sauce, apples and honey, mashed potatoes, asparagus with soysauce and honey, apple cake and grape juice. My boyfriend, who had come with me to Sunday services, came over for dinner and stuffed ourselves. It was a lot of effort, but it was well worth it.
My experiences with the Rosh Hashanah services make me wonder how I’m going to feel next week at Yom Kippur, but I hope I find the experience meaningful. I’ve heard strains of the Kol Nidre online, and it’s haunting. Given that our cantor has a beautiful, operatic voice, I’m sure the experience will move me. For now though, I will focus on working towards my resolutions for the year, and relishing the fact that song fragments from Sunday’s service are still floating through my head.
May the new year bring you all sweetness and joy. L’shana tova!