I often hear people say, “I used to go to synagogue on the holidays, but I didn’t get anything out of it,” or “What’s the point, I don’t believe in that stuff anyway?”
Expecting to “get something” is a good thing. You SHOULD expect to be different at the end of any experience than you were at the beginning. Expectations should be high for the High Holidays. Which is not even a good translation of the Yamim Nora’im ימים נוראים, which means “Days of Awe.”
At Makom Kadosh, we do our part to create services for these that are compelling, not boring. Out-of-the-box, not like your grandpa or grandma’s temple. Casual, questioning, relevant, participatory, accessible. These holy days are filled with great expectations. They’re not called the Days of Awe for nothing!
My father, may he rest in peace, used to get really aggravated at this time of the year. We used to joke that he got a migraine on Rosh Hashanah that lasted until the end of the fast on Yom Kippur! He did have a point, though. He would say, “Do we think that God, if we even BELIEVE in God, is so dense that we have to say the same prayers 3,4,5, 10 times in one service on the holidays. Why do they have to last so long?”
I’ve taken this complaint to heart. And lots of other ones. “Services are so top-down.” “We just sit there while some guys read the Torah.” “I never get an aliyah.” “It’s not relevant.” “I don’t understand Hebrew.” “I don’t believe in God, so going to services is such hypocrisy.”
Come and experience the the Yamim Nora’im, the Days of Awe-some with us! Bring your doubts, your frustrations. Bring an open mind that there can be something different.
AND…as with many things, it’s hard to “get something” if there is absolutely no preparation. It’s hard, or even impossible, to run a 5K without training (trust me, Turkey Trot 2013). Before deciding to switch jobs, or go to graduate school, or move, you look into your options. You read. You ask questions. You go and check things out.
So this year, get ready for the High Holidays, the Days of Awe-some. Read. Think. Talk. Feel. Connect.
Talk to important people in your life. Do you need to acknowledge someone? Where did you forget to say thank you, I’m sorry, I need you, or this isn’t working anymore, or, this is working better than I thought possible? It’s not too late.
Keep a forgiveness journal, or an at-one-ment journal, or a forgiveness journal, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I know what you’re saying: I HATE JOURNALING. I also hate journaling. Then write, in some other way, about how you are feeling. Let it all out on paper. Then, before Rosh Hashanah, read it. Or burn it. Or both.
Read a classic book about preparing for the Days of Awe-some:
This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, by Alan Lew (well, you probably don’t have enough time to finish this….just start with the section on Rosh Hashanah and keep going…)
Days of Awe, by S.Y. Agnon
Talk to a rabbi if you have questions.