Why, asked the rabbi yesterday morning at services, does a holiday characterized by our joy and connection to nature follow so soon after one in which we are commanded to be ascetic and solemn? Because, she suggested, teshuvah, and our completeness as human beings, requires both our souls and our bodies. To ignore one of these aspects--to remain in the mode of Yom Kippur, and forswear the earthbound happiness of Sukkot--would be to cut ourselves off from the possibility of healing all of ourselves, those parts most strongly connected to our physicality as well as those beyond it.
On the morning of Yom Kippur day, I awoke and thought: Now I have to stand in front of a lot of people and be serious. Time to start feeling serious. Then I took a deep breath, shut my eyes, and tried to sing a few notes. And, hallelujah, I still had a voice--it hadn't disappeared overnight like it did a week ago. I immediately wanted to jump out of bed and dance with maniacal glee, and access the physical, joyful part of myself that was scheduled to be exercised in about a week. But instead I just lay there for awhile and smiled, happy but feeling the need for decorum on a day of such gravitas, even though no one was watching.
The rain was still going strong. I put on my white clothing and an old pair of running shoes, and began the windswept walk to services. I was early, and sat in the little room for many minutes by myself listening the musicians warm up. Away from the sounds of the storm and the traffic of the business day that was just beginning, I felt like I had climbed into a safe, quiet cocoon.
The rabbi arrived and placed her waterlogged sneakers on the floor next to mine, as did the shaliah tzibur for Musaf, my Torah chanting teacher, a few minutes later. The Secret Rabbi Room began to look like a gym.