Since when do I like high holiday prayers?

Billy Crystal was quoted yesterday as saying about the high holidays:

We don’t have a lot of fun. We fast, we confess our sins, we don’t turn on the electric. So it’s basically a bunch of hungry, guilty people sitting around in the dark.

Last year I decided I’d had it. Yom Kippur is my favourite day of the year but I attributed it to the special ambiance in the country and to the masochistic pleasure/pain of fasting.

I sure as hell did not attribute it to the hours of oying and kvetching in shul.

And so I decided I wasn’t going to guilt myself into going to shul anymore. This time I would only go as much as I felt like it.

September 25, 2012, my seemingly annual blog post about how much I love Yom Kippur was published right before but afterwards I found myself feeling cheated, as though Yom Kippur hadn’t fully happened.

I was disappointed but it made me realize that shul was more important to me than I thought.

I made a declaration: Next year (which is this year) I will push myself to spend more time in prayer on this holiest of days. I will do what I think I should do, even if I don’t feel like it. Because Yom Kippur is my favourite holiday and I want to keep it that way.

Comes this year and I forget. At least until I continued with the no-pressure attitude into Rosh Hashana.

Again I decided I wasn’t going to shul more than I felt like. The first day I arrived very late for the end of the prayers. I stood and sat and listened and followed along. And then I left.

The second day I spent more time  in the synagogue but I’d also made another decision; I decided not to ask God for anything. I hate the pressure of trying to think of everything I want (just trying to think of all the people I want to pray for is overwhelming) and I figured, we’ll all get what we get anyway. I’d rather focus on self improvement – what do I want to work on in the new year.

Shul was same ol’ – started with my asking myself how I’d get through it and ended with me thoroughly enjoying it.

But still, when Rosh Hashana was over I felt like it had sort of passed me by.

And then I remembered last year’s Yom Kippur.

I love talking about how much I hate going to shul and I don’t connect to conventional prayer (non-conventional is a partially different story). But maybe I’m wrong about that. It may at times seem whiny, old fashioned and forced (all at the same time) and it may sometimes feel like we’re a bunch of guilt-ridden hungry souls sitting in the dark, but the high holiday prayers pronounce these days as extremely special and the opportunity to think of what you want to see in the new year can be hopeful and happy.

Of course publishing this post is probably going to jinx my Yom Kippur again but I’ll chance it because who believes in that stuff and if it does jinx it, it’ll give me material for my next post.

I hope we all have a wonderful, conventional Yom Kippur.

About the Author
Deena writes about life, relationships and her beloved Jerusalem. She organizes "Jerusalem Encounters" and shares hand-picked cultural events in her online calendar, Things to do in Jerusalem.