Tonight starts Yom Kippur and it feels really strange here, where I am now. It is the first time I am so isolated from any kind of Jewish community (other than over the internet). It is hard to remember, it is hard to make it different and meaningful... And it creates a lot of questions for myself: do I even care enough anymore?
Over the past few years I have been changing in my attitude toward religion in general and my own Jewish practice in particular. Coming out as lesbian opened doors to every kind of self-reflection. I was tired of lies, tired of living the way I thought I should have, instead of the way I believed was *my* way. I started to question everything, my motivations, my needs, my beliefs... Religion and devotion didn't stand a chance. I have had very old and strong roots in atheism and very rational, cold approach to religion. For years I tried to suffocate them as to fit in into what I thought I wanted. I really tried hard to be devoted orthodox Jewess, I took the whole package and didn't know there was another way. Now I am happily Jewish without the spirituality, ritual. I am not afraid to admit I feel disgusted with some aspects of our tradition, the same way I feel proud of other ones. Am I part of the modern "supermarket religion"? I pick and choose... except it's not exactly a religion anymore. Tradition? Belonging? Nationality? I don't know. Nationality probably not, as I don't really feel part of any nation. Maybe ethnicity? I guess that would be the best guess. I am still fascinated by the people being part of this rich tradition. The evolution of ideas, the social changes, the good and the bad. I love the craving for goodness, for social equality, struggles to achieve the most just society possible... they called it God and religion, for me it's more of a study in human nature and human socialization.
So what should I do with this day? Join in fast? I won't pray, as I don't think there is anything that listens. I could turn to the original meaning of the word "pray" in Hebrew, lehitpalel, which means self inspection, self-judgment... This is needed for every one, each person trying to live an honest life. We must check ourselves up once in a while... Not out of fear of punishment, but out of this ancient craving to reach goodness. I try to be an honest person, I am learning about my own prejudices, the stereotypes I still believe deep inside me, I don't trust my judgments and try to analyze them for possible biases. But I also know I don't do enough. Learning about today's Nobel Peace Prize reciepients I feel bad, that I dont' do more. Just understanding problems, thinking and learning about them is not enough, it's not a goal in itself, it's the means to reach something else. I try to do my part by educating others... but is it really enough? I hope I planted seads in my students that will help them question their own privilege, sensitize them to the inequality around them...
It's a new year, new beginning ... That's symbolism which probably speaks to everyone. It is quite fitting that my new company was established around Rosh Hashana. It is a new beginning for me... and I am terrified where it goes. I don't know if it succeeds, if I can support myself not to even mention my mother. I know nothing, I can only hope. But I won't pray, unless I take it with the humanistic approach: as an expression of personal hopes and wishes... If so, then I pray that my modest actions will join others in creating more equal, just and accepting world around us, one day at a time, one mind at a time.