When I worked at the University of Washington, I asked to take Yom Kippur off.
“Will you be going to synagogue?”
“Will you be fasting?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet.”
“Then why are you taking it off?”
I hated that conversation. And I love the fact that I’ve never had to have that conversation in Israel.
I usually go to the Kotel (Western Wall) for Yom Kippur, but I live further away now and it’s probably going to be hot, even in the morning. I don’t know if I want to walk 2 hours round trip to have a few words with God. God is everywhere, right? So I should be able to stay home.
And that is the beauty of living in Israel. No one will question what I choose to do on Yom Kippur and no matter what I do, I don’t feel any less Jewish.
In the US, there’s a lot of effort that goes into maintaining a connection with Judaism. You have to plan ahead to coordinate holidays; if you want a community, you have to join a synagogue or community center (often paying dues and fees); if you want to be more religious, you have to shop at certain stores, live in certain neighborhoods, reorder your life slightly out of step with the surrounding community. It’s hard.
Here in Israel, I can effortlessly connect to my Jewish heritage. The nation functions on the Jewish calendar, I can walk into any synagogue at any time or never walk into any synagogue ever, I’m in-step with everyone and everything around me. I don’t have to try so hard.
I sound lazy, I’m sure. But it feels to me like my soul is planted in the fertile soil that it needs so that I can grow in other directions.
My dad had a pin that he liked a lot. He probably got it from Chabad. It said: “We never lost it.” I asked him what it meant and he said that we never lost the answers. I was about seven, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Now I can see that even if you never lost a thing, sometimes it doesn’t always fit properly. But once it’s in its rightful place, everything else seems to realign itself.
I never lost my Judaism, I just didn’t have a way to make it fit properly for me in the US. Now that I’m in Israel, I feel that everything is in its rightful place no matter what I do on Yom Kippur.
I’m sorry if my posts offended anyone. I’m sorry that some posts got a bit too long. I’m sorry if I misrepresented something or someone my writing. I hope you can forgive me. I will try to do better next year.
Wishing everyone a Gmar Chatima Tova!
May you be written and sealed in the Book of Life!
May you have a meaningful fast (if you’re fasting)!