What Does and Does Not Happen

On Yom Kippur, I like to sit in the back of whatever room I’m in, under my tallit, not unlike a hibernating bear. I like the ambient noise, weirdly similar to the kind in coffee shops, the dimness of my little tent, and the strange, focused hum of my thoughs.
For me, 5770 was, as my mother used to say, “a doozy.” Normally, I am loathe to judge a year based on the last half of it, but really, in terms of sucking, it was pretty good at it. One response might have been to hurl myself into davening, get worked up into a sweaty Jewish lather, and then collapse, feeling cleansed, but I haven’t done that yet. Self examination is even harder when the wounds still aren’t even close to being scars.
I saw a Facebook status the other day in which someone said they were rushing to squeeze themselves through the gates before they closed. I thought about the people who have died this year and last year, and every year I’ve been alive that I’ve known about this liturgy and how seriously I’ve taken the references to being written down in the book, which, admittedly, is not very. It’s a mystery to me as to how any of us can maintain a sense of invincibility, knowing what we do about the world, but somehow, we do. The idea of really bad things happening to us is very distant until it’s right there, happening. Maybe we’re all allotted a certain amount of tragedy in our lives, and once we’re done, we’re done? Unlikely.
So I hole up in my tallit-cave and wish for clarity, for illumination. I want to be able to see myself more clearly, to know my growing edges, and to not be afraid of them. But I also want to be able to see the truck coming, or the illness, or the loss. I want what’s impossible. The liturgical sprint to the closing of the gates doesn’t make me more earnest in my davening. It makes me feel bald, quivering and exhausted (kind of like when I haven’t eaten all day). Getting through the gates is only the first step. I’m more worried about what’s on the other side.

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