Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.


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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pre-Yom Kippur Smorg

A few miscellaneous tidbits before we start our pre-holiday feasts:

Yom Kippur and Ramadan: There have been articles in the press which noted the confluence of these two holiday periods, but what I haven't seen is something my Dad liked to mention: The Ramadan month fast was originally an outgrowth of Yom Kippur, adapted by the early Moslems. But since the Moslem lunar calendar doesn't add a leap-month every few years to synchronize with the solar calendar (as the Jewish calendar does), Ramadan month drifts throughout the year, and only falls at its original season about 1/12 of the time.

Missing My Dad: Speaking of my father, I have been missing him a lot lately. This time of year brings him to mind for two reasons. He was the ba'al musaf [main prayer leader] for RH/YK from before I was born until a couple of years before his death in 2004. Though I didn't get back to Baltimore, where he led services, for RH/YK too often over the past several years, I still hear his voice in my mind every year. No other chazzan sounds quite right to me, no matter how beautiful their versions might be in their own right. My Dad used to say that Yom Kippur was his favorite holiday. As a kid, I never understood this, but now I do.

Also, it was over these holidays two years ago that we first became aware of his illness, which was to take him just four months later. May his memory be a blessing, and may all that he taught me continue to provide insight and guidance.

"Jewish Guilt" and Teshuva: I had intended to write a separate, longer post about this topic, which started in Mirty's blog two weeks ago, but I think I said most of what I wanted to there. In summary, I agree that a form of guilt - a better word would be remorse - is a necessary precursor to teshuva. But it's a temporary stage; just as a rest area on the highway may be a required stopover but is certainly nowhere you'd want to live. Teshuva is about using the remorse as a basis for self-improvement, growth, and cleansing. It's about getting past the guilt.

The reason I'm bothered by the "Jewish Guilt" cliche is that it is invariably portrayed as permanent state, an indelible stain. Think of two of the canonical Jewish Mother jokes:
Q: How many Jewish Mothers does it take to change a light bulb.
A: Don't bother, I'll just sit in the dark!

A Jewish Mother bought her son two ties for his birthday. To show his appreciation, the next time he visited her he wore one of them. When he came in the door, the mother's first words were: "Nu, you didn't like the other tie??"
OK, these are funny. But behind the humor, what's do they say about "Jewish Guilt"? That it's actually preferable to feel guilty than to fix the problem. And that no matter what you do, you can do no right. And those are what I feel are fundamentally anti-Jewish concepts.

Aaron's Story Part 4: I have started working on the next part of Aaron's Story. Faced with this month's prospect of holiday after holiday without him, I think I'll need another dose of emotional release soon.

Now's the Time to Say "I'm Sorry": I hereby ask mechila [forgiveness] for any I may have offended during my brief blogging career (three months this Saturday!) or in any other forum/manner. A healthy and productive Yom Kippur to my Jewish readers, and a year of life and good health to all.

G'mar Chasima Tova.

7 Comments:

At 10/12/05, 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eli,

Why do you now understand how Yom Kippur was your father's favorite holiday. What made it his favorite holiday? Is it your favorite holiday now or do you just understand his perspective.

Just curious!

Gmar Tov!

esther

 
At 10/12/05, 11:43 AM, Blogger Elie said...

His leading the prayers brought him to a emotional high and provided him a tremendous emotional release. During parts of the prayers - e.g., the 10 martyrs - he would break down weeping aloud.

I don't think I get quiet as much from YK as he did, but his statement makes sense to me now as it didn't in childhood, when my response was "how can you like Yom Kippur - it's no fun!

 
At 10/12/05, 12:50 PM, Blogger Mirty said...

Your father was a very gifted chazan and Torah reader. I still hear his voice in my head when I listen to Torah.

 
At 10/12/05, 12:51 PM, Blogger Mirty said...

Maybe it isn't appropriate to call him a chazan. I should say Ba'al Tefilah?

 
At 10/12/05, 1:19 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Mirty:

Thanks, that was so nice of you to mention!

I guess Ba'al Tefila is a more exact term since he wasn't a "Cantor"-style chazzan, but chazzan is often used in a broader sense as well.

 
At 10/12/05, 11:08 PM, Blogger Regina Clare Jane said...

I so enjoyed your post today (as well as your blog)- I am a new reader (actually for a couple of weeks now) and the guilt part really hit home. As a Gentile woman on the road to conversion to the Jewish faith, the part about "no matter what you do, you can do no right" really hit home for me... anyway, wishing you an easy fast and a very meaningful Yom Kippur... thanks.

 
At 10/14/05, 1:42 PM, Blogger benros52589 said...

we all forgive u and i enjoyed the blog today

 

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