Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Surviving Yom Kippur

I have heard that some people have a hard time dealing with davening on Yom Kippur.  Of course not at Beth Israel.  We have Ari Dembitzer, the greatest chazzan ever!  He makes the davening exciting, engaging, and meaningful for everyone!
But in other shuls in out of town communities (by out of town I mean out of Nebraska) I have heard that this may be a problem. 

So here is the question:

Would it be considered rude or disrespectful to come to shul on Yom Kippur with a book to read when you are board?

On the one hand, it would certainly make the davening more engaging.  Perhaps a Tom Clancy novel would be inappropraite, but what about a book of Jewish thought? Should the book necessarily be related to a theme on Yom Kippur or maybe it can be on any topic of interest?  Maybe any book is ok and we should just be thankful taht people are coming to shul.

The other side, I guess is that it could be construed by others as disrespectful.  Maybe there is some obligation to our heritage to at least attempt to connect with the liturgy that our people have found meaningful for so many generations.  If we all sit and engage in something unrelated then are we really coming to pray together?

One of the survivors at our shul related to me how when she was a little girl she did not understand why her mother would cry so much at shul on Yom Kippur.  Then when she got older she developed an appreciation for the solemnity of the day and she too cries on Yom Kippur. 

Is it really impossible for us to connect with the davening the way that our predecessors did and the way that many people still do?  I must admit that I am not the best davener but there have certainly been times when the davening has moved me to tears.  Usually it was related to other things that were going on in my life and my time alone with Hsaahem during davening was the perfect time for me to reflect on those things.
Maybe that is a good argument against books on Yom Kippur.  Having a book will take me away from prayer and will engage me in the words and thoughts of the author rather than giving myself time to think about my own life.

I am not sure what to say about this one.  In the meantime, at Beth Israel books are certainly allowed and welcome, but my hope is that the prayers of the chazzan, but more than that the experience of the day of judgement, will affect people and prompt them to put the book down and try to encounter Hashem in the best way that they are able.

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