Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yom Kippur report

Wilmington, DE. Your reporter has gone through another Yom Kippur service, and has a few remarks from the field.

The cantor was superb. Her voice was strong and pure, and her pronunciation--well, I don't know how Hebrew is supposed to be pronounced, but I followed her more or less successfully from the prayer book, something I find difficult when the rabbi is doing the leading. Of course, all I know of Hebrew is what I puzzled out for myself since my grandson's bar mitzvah, and one short course which never reached the end of the alphabet. I did not go to Hebrew school as a child, as I was too busy being trained to be a good little Communist.

I loved the melodies. Every cantor sings different ones, and hers were generally quite showy and theatrical, which I like. Some of the melodies were almost too jolly to be taken as supplications. I almost believe we should be called People of the Song; the music makes the service much pleasanter, and I like to sing, particularly with a whole bunch of other people so no-one has to listen to me. It was something like attending an--admittedly long--oratorio.

The rabbi's sermon was interesting. He started out strongly on the theme of L'dor Va Dor (meaning from generation to generation), a popular theme among Jews. It is continually surprising that we have survived some of the stuff we went through and are still here. What do you suppose became of the other ancient peoples? You never hear a peep out of the Sumerians, for instance. The Persians are still around, but that's about it.

Anyway, the rabbi started with L'Dor Va Dor. But somehow he got sidetracked to social justice and never got back to that topic. He touched upon the theme found in Isaiah, "Is this the fast that I have chosen?" in which God complains that Jews are paying lip service to piety, while kicking sand in the face of their neighbors and other bad stuff. The rabbi thought we should volunteer in day care centers and do our civic duty. He may have a point there.

The Yiskor (remembrance) service was deeply moving, as always, for those of us who have lost dear ones. I especially remember my mother, of course. But I also think of her two brothers, my uncles. And my grandparents, her parents. But most poignant of all, my cousin Sam. He was the youngest of three siblings, and he never got his act together. He was devoted to his parents, and though he had several degrees including a law degree, he was never launched. His mother died when he was in his mid-fifties, too late for him to make a new start. So he lived in a big house, all by himself, with several cats. He became increasingly isolated. He had been friends with my brother, but for some reason, which was never explained, stopped seeing him. He skipped my brother's son's bar mitzvah which was rather shocking when you realize how my family felt about family occasions. He lived alone and died alone.

We went to visit his grave the last time I was in Columbus. You may know that it is a custom among Jews that when one visits a grave, one leaves a stone in remembrance. His grave was a veritable rock pile. Many of the stones had messages, the gist of which was, "from your girl, always." So maybe Sam had someone, after all. I hope so.


sher said...

Nice blog--Miriam. I am of the faith but was too ill to go to Yom Kippur services today-- missed the chating rituals-- but enjoyed your musings. Especially about your cousin Sam. It is unfortunate how many of us are alone these days, and the computer I think sometimes hurts instead of helps.

Anyway-- one point of correction the Assyrians, and the Chaldeans are still around and prospering as minorities in Iraq, or having fled from Sadam and large populations here in the states. Interesingly enough, they usually move into Jewish neighborhoods, since in the Arab world they were always discriminated against like the Jews.

oh well, heres to survival.

miriam said...

Sher: Thanks for the complliment, and a happy and healthy new year to you. And of course to the Chaldeans and Assyrians.