Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Fast Day

[This is one of those posts that took on a life of its own as a quick check on the Gates of Repentance prayerbook, turned out to be not so quick.]

Yom Kippur, starting at sun down until sun down, is a fast day. No food, no water, if you are really observant, no bathing even. For ten days, since Rosh Hashanah, when God is supposed to write people's names in the book of life for next year (or not), until today, when it is sealed, there is still time to appeal to be written in the book of life.

On Rosh Hashanah it is written,
on Yom Kippur it is sealed:
How many shall pass on, how many shall come to be,
who shall live and who shall die;
who shall see ripe age and who shall not;
who shall perish by fire and who by water;
who by sword and who by beast;
who by hunger and who by thirst;
who by earthquake and who by plague;
who by strangling and who by stoning;
who shall be secure and who shall be driven;
who shall be tranquil and who shall be troubled;
who shall be poor and who shall be rich;
who shall be humbled and who exalted. (p. 313)
If I take the idea of God as a metaphor and such passages as the one above as an allegory, then I can handle this all as a reminder to look into my soul and check on how well I'm doing.

And there is a lot that connects directly with the world today:
Today let us remember the earth's oppressed;
let us restore their human heritage
to the victims of torture,
the weak and the weary,
all who are imprisoned without caue.
Let us remember them,
bring peace to every home,
and comfort to eery heart. (p445)
I think about the kind of teaching people are getting at the religious services where the leader lashes out hate at people who act and think differently than the congregants. In contrast, at our service we are constantly reminded to look into ourselves to root out our own transgressions and to be more loving toward others.

Here's Lynn reading the Hebrew in Braille.

Quotations are from Gates of Repentance, 1978. These are really old prayer books and our rabbis, for years, have been substituting non-sexist language and less royal terminology ('king' and 'lord' being replaced with 'adonai' or 'God') for years. When I googled Gates of Repentance the book publishers/sellers didn't list publication dates but there is a 'gender inclusive' edition mentioned. But finding any sites that talked about the history (or future) of the prayerbook is hard.

Here, Rabbi Barry H. Block, in a 2005 sermon, discussed the need for new regular Sabbath prayerbooks as well as new High Holiday prayer books. After saying that a new regular prayer book was expected in 2006, he wrote:
For those who are wondering, to my knowledge, nobody is contemplating a replacement of Gates of Repentance, our High Holy Day prayerbook.
You can read a brief biography of Chaim Stern, who edited Gates of Repentance. And as I keep looking, here's his NY Times obituary in 2001.

As I was searching, I noticed a number of synagogues require you to bring your own copy of the prayer book. Here's from the Cleveland area's Temple Israel Ner Tamid's website:
High Holy Days 5770 - 2009 High Holy Days Services

Our temple uses the Gates of Repentance prayer book. Please remember to bring your own. Copies are available for sale before the High Holy Days in the Temple Israel Ner Tamid office.

Fortunately, in Anchorage we don't don't have to bring our own prayer books, nor do we have to buy tickets for the High Holy Days like most congregations.

1 comment:

  1. As I start down the path with wisdom and Quakers here, I am struck by the decision Gene and I made early on. It was to recognize we are Christian by culture, yet Quaker by choice.

    In other words, while we are pulled by the calendar of liturgical events (being Catholic and Lutheran in our rearing) and honestly feel that while no christmas is complete without a candlelight mass, we are no longer christians, as believers. Jesus is teacher, not god.

    We found a rich life of mind and spirit in the middle ground of questions and acceptance of other's religious path. I could go on of the important differences between our American past and our European present. It's enough to say religion is not a major player in Western Europe, and that makes all the difference.

    We can explore faith free of the emotional land mines in the states. It is not 24/7, late night television and Jesus radio stations, tracts on doorsteps, unending political intrigue.

    We both feel that it has been here, in a much more secular society, that we have been free to believe more fully. It's something I think most religionists just wouldn't understand, but I would chalk it up to a very human tendency to find something more precious when it's less common.

    We are grateful for our new found freedoms in matters spiritual. We go quietly into the world with our faith and doubt, and we are not sanctioned for it. We do, however, expect that others respect it.

    It's not utopia. It is England, a questionably European country celebrating the 500th anniversary of the start of the reign of Henry VIII, who famously split with Rome over sovereign control of state religion. The events that tumbled throughout their history and the enmeshed histories of other European powers led many to today's quiet on the spiritual front. It is empty space for many; yet for resettled cultural Americans, it is full of possibility.

    Peace on your house as we all continue our ancient observance in what ways we may or must.


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