We are in the middle of the Days of Awe. As a good and obedient Jew, I should be lost in introspection and atonement. I should be performing acts of charity, repentance, and prayer. I should not be the only Jew blogger who hasn’t blogged at all during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Instead, I am stressing, unpacking, wrangling OCD in ways I haven’t had to in a long long time. Rosh Hashanah is a time of new beginnings and I am facing so many of them that I don’t recognize much of anything right now. New city. New Job. New home. New roommates (any roommates for that matter. I’ve lived alone a long long time.). I worked on Rosh Hashanah and I will work on Yom Kippur.
Up until about 20 minutes ago, I felt guilty and horrible for the lack of time I have given to the Days of Awe this year. Then, searching for inspiration, I found this in a book of Yom Kippur readings:
“It occurred to me today that I might spend a whole year in shul, morning prayers, afternoon prayers, evening prayers, and never have a religious experience. A discouraging notion. Yet I must not ask for what cannot be given. Shul was not invented for a religious experience. In shul, a religious experience is an experience of religion. The rest is up to me.” Leon Wieseltier
Now don’t get me wrong. I miss shul, and plan on going soon. I miss prayer, and plan on scheduling it into my life. Shul is, for me, an important part of being Jewish. But these are days of miracle and wonder and they will be whether I go to shul or not. Religious experience is not only found in the midst of Yom Kippur prayer. It is not only found in the quiet moments of introspection and atonement. Religious experience comes in the moments you least expect it – for me, it came reading a quote about not finding religious experience. Then, at that moment, I felt close to God.
I knew that God understood.
God understands busy chaotic lives. God understands OCD and worry and stress. God understands moving and unpacking and being afraid of all the new beginnings.
Today, amidst the chaos and craziness, I am being the best Jew I know how to be. Tomorrow, I will attempt to be the best Jew I can be. And the day after and the day after. This is what God asks of us. This is what the Days of Awe are about – recognizing our failings and trying to atone for them. But life is not about self-flagellation and perhaps one of the things we should all atone for this Yom Kippur is not being as understanding of our own failings as God is.