Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Yom Kippur Report

We went back to the old homestead, my San Francisco shul. But of course, it's not that easy, because my ever-sensitive school district decides to schedule a district ELD department meeting at 3:45 on Erev Yom Kippur.

Prior history: there was a staff meeting after school Erev Rosh Hashanah. I intended to slip out early, since I have miles to go before I sleep. I, moron that I am, mention this to the principal when she sits down next to me.

"Hey, Principal, I'm going to slip out a little early from this one. Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown."

"Well, what time is sundown?"

HUH? That's not the response. The response is "Have a wonderful holiday Ms. Balabusta." Or perhaps a self conscious "Shana tov-uh--is that right?"

I explain, as briefly as I can, that I need to get in to San Francisco in order to join up with my family. She determines that if I wait until the end of the meeting at four I should be okay.

The Woman I Would Like To Be would have explained that this was non-negotiable, and walked. I stayed. I got a lift into the city with a coworker.

So then I realize that the district ELD meeting is scheduled for Erev Yom Kippur, and my soul is confused within me. Because, you see, I feel as though I've been just adequate as the ELD coordinator at my school, and want to be fabulous, but I also want to get into San Francisco in time to eat pasta and drink a few glasses of water.

I went to the meeting, but did comment that in future it would be nice for us not to have meetings on Erev Yom Kippur. The organizer says in confusion that she thought the holiday was tomorrow. (I have an idea--why don't we schedule a meeting until five on Christmas Eve, and see how that flies?) Anyway, she was nice about it, and apologetic that she hadn't understood, although she did NOT suggest that I might need to leave early.

But there was bottled water, so I drank it while I took notes.

Departed meeting, got lift with coworker to BART. Unclear how long I had until sun went down. Stopped at BART station cafe, ordered a mozzarella-tomato sandwich with salad, and ate it. More water. Now really need ladies room, luckily the ones at the BART station in question have stayed open. (SF ones permanently closed on account of terrorism.)

Arrived at shul half an hour early, with enormous duffel bag. Explained myself--tickets coming with parents, just came from work, I am harmless. Luckily, the gabbai knows who I am.

Kol Nidre beautiful, but at this point I've been going since 5:30 AM, and am wrecked. Finally we get home, and I sleep.

I should mention also that my parents live, literally, less than a block from a Conservative synagogue I used to attend, when my parents lived farther away from it, but that we have tickets at the last synagogue I used to be a member of, which is on the other side of Golden Gate Park. My father has rented a car and drives us over, to the glee of people going to the synagogue down the street, as he opens a plush parking space.

Morning, we sleep in a little, get dressed slowly, and leave for shul again, arriving just in time for the Torah service. The Balabusta's father takes off again.

At about noon, the rabbi (who takes "a day like Purim" seriously), begins to walk the aisles, doing a pantomime of writing on a pad, and asking people for their lunch orders.

My main problem, which gets steadily worse through Musaf, is that although the fast is easy, I'm having one heck of a time staying conscious. I realize, giving this some thought, that most of my days are spent running on necessity and adrenaline, and now that I've been placed in a serene environment, without screaming, shouting, paper airplanes, or vicious administrators, the only thing my body can imagine to do is pass out cold. I sit in my chair and think serious thoughts about my relationship to God and fellow human being. My eyes close. Perhaps I will meditate about all this. Wait...I think what I'm doing is technically called 'falling asleep'.

Other than my embarassing problem with consciousness, it's a lovely service. Our rabbi's daughter is also a rabbi, and she comes in and leads parts of the service on the holidays. There are tons of cute children running around doing cute things. We are using the synaogogue's slightly outdated Machzors, which have been slightly updated by a team of volunteers who have gone through and pasted an Avot that includes the matriarchs throughout.

At the end of Musaf, the rabbi, who told us not to look at our watches as we absorb the awesome power of the day, can't resist telling us to look at our watches now, so we can see we're right on schedule. It is a very Yeky shul, did I mention?

The Balabusta and her mother skip out on Mincha and the study groups to go take a walk on Ocean Beach. As we head out the door, we can hear an announcement being made that men are indeed allowed to attend the rabbi's study group about Jewish women in history. (The Rabbi tends to favor girls, particularly harassing all the women under forty in the congregation to become rabbis. I have seen him preside over a baby naming for a newly adopted child, read the announcement of her conversion, and point out that right now she could go to JTS. Kid in question is 18 months. At Shavuos, three kids from the confirmation class gave drashes from the bimah--I hope the boys were not too hurt that the rabbi only suggested the one girl should apply to JTS, and merely told the young men that their talks were very good. My mother says turnabout is fair play.)

Ocean gorgeous. Beach gorgeous. Sky gorgeous. A beautiful fall day, just crisp enough. As we walk, my mother tells me about Yom Kippurs of her childhood in Los Angeles--97 degrees in the shade, in a synagogue without air conditioning. We discuss how lucky we are to live in San Francisco.

Back for Yizkor, sermon, Neilah. At Neilah, as I could have predicted, it all starts to come together for me. The tiredness is gone, and the awe, finally, starts to creep in. At the end of the day, we have everyone in the synagogue with a shofar up on the bimah, and the congregation calls the tekiah gedolah.

I close my eyes, and see blue horizon, and then I open them because I want to see the congregation. One man manages to extend the note impossibly long, and then it finishes, and everyone is laughing, and talking, and we start Havdalah.

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