Friday, October 10, 2008

Blue Angels Yontiff

For Yom Kippur, Mrs. Bluejeans and I went to services at Sherith Israel. (Rosh Hashanah we were at my old shul in the Sunset.)

The main sanctuary at Sherith is fabulously gorgeous. Actually, the whole shul is gorgeous. The sanctuary is painted wall to wall with intricate interwoven patterns, banded with bronze egg-and-dart edgings and rows of light bulbs tracing the arcs and the balconies. Rows of patterns lead up to the dome, and quotations done in gold Gothic script on interwoven ribbons circle the ceiling. There are several sizes of stained-glass windows, showing biblical scenes and figures, including a huge one of Moshe, flanked by banners and fascinated Israelites, standing with the tablets of the law in what seems to be Yosemite National Park, to judge from the mountainous landscape in the background.

The pipes on the organ are painted and patterned. It's a bit like davening inside a Persian rug factory, or possibly the inside of a genie's very spacious bottle. It's amazing. You couldn't make something like these these days for love nor money. It's not even slightly modern. It is, however, incredibly beautiful.

Kol Nidre, a very good sermon on the responsibility of Reform Jews to support same-sex marriage. Excellent cantor. The next day we met for morning services at Calvary Presbyterian, up on Fillmore (very pretty church, but not on a par with Sherith, although the stained glass appears to be from the same era).

The Blue Angels were blasting overhead all day, since we're leading up to Fleet Week. No problem, except for one very near pass over the church as people were coming downstairs, which made everyone jump...well, I guess angels don't start by saying 'Fear not' for nothing.

During morning services, the rabbi requested that all the gentile spouses of congregants come up to the bimah to be honored for their services to the Jewish community. The fella has declared that he is very pleased not to have been there to be honored, since he would have freaked out if the rabbi had attempted to kiss him (as the rabbi did the spouses on the bimah). The fella can be such a wuss about being kissed by rabbis. Afternoon services we were back at Sherith.

I sometimes miss High Church Reform. I was raised with solemn Protestant-like services, rabbis in robes (and, when I was a child, no yarmulkes), and services heavily couched in those strange 'variations suggested by the Hebrew' English prayers, written in 1930, or 1955, and never touched since. No one has services quite like the ones of my childhood anymore, and that's good thing, by me. I like the Hebrew, I think rabbis should cover their heads...but despite having found other kinds of shuls as an adult, nothing brings back my childhood, or my childhood awe of the chagim faster than the sound of a cantor doing an operatic solo to the crescendo of a pipe organ, and the words "God of awesome might, oh God of awesome might..."

And always, every year since I was little...

Birth is a beginning
and death a destination.
And life is a journey:
From Childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then, perhaps, to wisdom
From weakness-to strength
Or strength to weakness
And, often, back again;
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion
And grief to understanding-
From fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat-
Until- looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage,
A sacred pilgrimage
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage-
To life everlasting.

We broke the fast at home, with cold cuts and fruit salad, and I went home, hoping for a sweet year.


Anonymous said...

That's interesting because I cannot STAND the organ :) I know some people think it's not shul without it but, not so much.

PS. If you don't mind, I'd like to link to you :)

BBJ said...

Sure, go ahead and link!

debka_notion said...

I grew up not-so-High Church Reform (some Hebrew, kippot on some folks), but that last reading before the kaddish- serious reminders of childhood.