Sunday, October 12, 2008

735. Right before Yom Kippur, 5769

Yom Kippur rehearsal

I emerged blinking in the bright sunlight from the dark Sanctuary last Sunday afternoon after my rehearsal and wandered smack into a street fair. ("Yom Kippur rehearsal?" wondered a friend. "Do you practice fasting, as well?" No, but judging by the amount of Chinese food I had for dinner that evening, one might think so.) High Holy Day week is also street fair season on the Upper West Side, always delightful and sometimes bordering on mystical. Once again I wove in and out of knots of people eating arepas and chimichangas; inspecting discount Chinese rugs and Indian handbags and African earrings; stopping to hear a Cuban mariachi band or try on a sweater; and I wanted to hug them all, a ridiculous wave of love for every single person, dog and roasted-corncob-dripping-with-butter-on-a-stick in my city. Maybe it was because I knew I wasn't the only sinner on Broadway, as we all joined in gluttony and coveting just as the Vidui advises we should not.

Or maybe it was because the rehearsal ran late, so I had no choice but wait for the cantor himself to rehearse Kol Nidre while I tried to look nonchalant. The rest of the Upper West Side was running around scrounging for bargains, thinking they were the lucky ones--but only I got to listen to the closest sound to the voice of God, over and over again. (I got to hear him on Rosh Hashanah, as well, which usually doesn't happen with all the hazzanim moving from service location to location--and he heard me, too, a bit nerve-wracking. Both mornings felt a little like a master class with the entire Jewish people observing from the the upper rows. But I seem to have passed, for now.)

A few days later I came back home from the Kol Nidre service still drowning in sounds of boundless strength embraced by compassion, and got right into bed because I had to be awake at 6:30 the next morning--but the year's worth of transgressions wouldn't stop bouncing around in my brain. The best way I could think to relax was with a little puzzle game on my iPhone, which I knew wasn't exactly kosher. It felt OK, though--more like meditation, repetitive, numbing and ultimately healing if it managed to keep me calm. Not that I have any idea what God wants, but I figured my good night's sleep was on His list, and so He wouldn't mind if I pushed all the little pieces together in rows while trying to refrain from conscious thought.

I'd been playing this game rather addictively for a few weeks. My highest score was 300,000 points, a number attained after lengthy rumination about strategy and tilting technique. But I decided to ignore all that, since I wanted to keep the day holy in spirit if not letter. My game would become one big digital "om": tilt, click, ping, tilt, click, ping as my brain emptied, readying itself for better things to come.

The little bomb exploded; the game was over. I looked at my score: 976,852, three times higher than my former greatest achievement. Cool. Maybe God really was OK with this particular sin and (were I a believer in that sort of communication) was trying to tell me that the year would start out just fine.


The rest of Rosh Hashanah to follow after Sukkot. (So soon? But I was just wallowing in endless guilt--now I get to be happy and celebrate the harvest? Amazing.) Wish everyone a sweet and bountiful holiday.

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