Musings of an Unaffiliated Jew on Erev Rosh Hashanah
After more than twenty years as an active participant in a Reform congregation, I am about to begin my third year as an unaffiliated Jew.
This is entirely my choice. Darling Spouse is equally comfortable affiliated or not, and has expressed nothing but support for me in this decision. We've disagreed over whether or not I'll eventually go back. I say no. Darling Spouse believes otherwise, but the discussion is moot; I'm not ready to go back yet.
A word about Jews and community: Although there are many blessings and prayers that individuals (mainly orthodox) can and do say on a daily basis, public worship requires a minyan -- quorum -- of 10 adult Jews. To read Torah, to recite Kaddish, to hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah or Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur, Jews must come together in community. What could have so gotten to me that the community that succored and supported me for so many years became more burden than comfort? As with so many other things in life, the causes are multifactorial. Still, the break continues to be a relief; a time-out from a game I'm not yet ready to re-enter.
So how do I cope with the High Holy Days? Find a different community to join in the capacity of "visitor" just for the occasion? Fashion some kind of personal ritual to observe the New Year, the Days of Awe and the Day of Atonement? Or just ignore them altogether?
Frankly, I lean toward the latter, as I admit that a good part of my "break" is a form of rebellion. But some things are still too deeply ingrained to ignore: although I will work on Rosh Hashanah, I shall fast on Yom Kippur.
Darling Spouse, though, is insisting on a special holiday dinner tonight, the beginning of the Jewish New Year: roast chicken with all the trimmings, and a round challah. I'm looking forward to it, especially given the luxury of not having to rush-rush-rush around to get all dressed up in our holiday best and still get to synagogue an hour ahead of time for last-minute choir stuff. How relaxing, the prospect of leisurely dinner, with time to get the dishes done instead of having to leave them soaking in the sink until after services.
Interesting, isn't it: however you look at it, it's all about the food.