I can scarcely believe that Selihot is in two days. Every year I've had fewer and fewer rehearsals leading up to the High Holy Days, and so the discipline of preparation has been shifting back to my own responsibility. Back when I started this journey in 2004--or, rather, when I was pushed happily but uncomprehendingly onto the road--I spent many months thinking, dreaming, and breathing Shaharit. (Ne'ila and Minha followed soon after.) I had no choice but to get ready with all my body and spirit. Now the melodies are in my bones; all I've had to do for the past month is review, every couple of days, the parts where my voice balks at what it's supposed do. The range is still a little high, even though I'm now more accustomed to singing those notes. I've learned not to worry, because I know I'll be just fine after waking up at 6AM and warming up for two hours. (I'll be singing at the same number of services as last year, despite my unfounded doubts.) I have a rehearsal with one ensemble next Friday, and another the following Monday. And that's it.
But I don't think I've done enough of the other kind of preparation--the heshbon hanefesh part, accounting of my soul for the past year. I've taken stabs at it, made a few changes, fell backwards. It's slow going, as always. I'm remembering to be kind to myself, and hoping this compassion and patience will spill over into my dealings with the rest of the world. This week I revisited Beginning Anew, a collection of essays about the Yamim Nora'im from a feminist perspective. A friend lent it to me four years ago and I've been consumed with guilt every subsequent Yom Kippur, when I remember that I never read or returned it. This year will be different. Ever since I took part in a discussion group about Engendering Judaism, a book exploring the challenges of a gender-expansive view of Jewish prayer, the idea of a women's approach to Judaism has felt much less awkward. (And I've felt less awkward admitting that it once seemed so.) My religious community comes very close to being completely gender-neutral in all aspects of philosophy and ritual which, paradoxically, is not always the best approach. The rest of the world is not always so tolerant, and sometimes we need to celebrate the differences that were once mistaken for inequality. Just because they no longer are doesn't mean we should ignore them.
These are concepts I wouldn't usually explore; I hope struggling with them in this week before I stand on the bima will teach me something new about myself.