I've just started to read This Is Real And You Are Completely Unprepared by Rabbi Alan Lew, subtitled "The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation." In the first few pages he lays out the entire conundrum and struggle with beautiful clarity:
Every soul needs to express itself. Every heart needs to crack itself open. Every one of us needs to move from anger to healing, from denial to consciousness, from boredom to renewal. These needs did not arrive yesterday. They are among the most ancient of human yearnings, and they are fully expressed in the pageantry and ritual of the Days of Awe, in the great journey we make between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
He talks in the first chapter about the idea of home, and our search for a place that makes us feel whole. The High Holy Days, he notes, when we dress in white as if in a shroud and plead over and over again for mercy, are a rehearsal for no less than the moment of death, the ultimate expression of this need. I'm making the book sound grim. It's not at all--it really does live up to its jacket copy ("passionate, intimate, funny"). Rabbi Lew's observations are universal, and can also apply to holy days in other religions that share the concepts we focus on at this time of year--redemption, rebirth, forgiveness.
But that home idea struck a nerve, maybe because there's an undercurrent of loss in my life right now, with more to come. It's just a low hum, for which I'm grateful; sadness, but not much pain. Still, these past weeks have made me acutely sensitive to the fact that life continues to happen even though I Am Completely Unprepared. I don't want to reach home and feel like I never got out of the rehearsal. I need to listen more carefully, find a new melody that's louder than this hum or any other that's been hiding the song I'm supposed to hear.