I would love to spend Yom Kippur in the woods, every year I have the same debate and every year my yetzer tov or yiras shamayim takes the form of “dude are you f–cking nuts” and I shoot down the idea of backpacking to a beautiful glacial cirque in the central Sierra, setting up camp and conversing with the lord for a full day in silence with no distractions but his wonderful creations.
I just don’t like doing teshuvah in shul with people around, I myself feel like a voyeur on Yom Kippur watching everyone crying and wondering what on earth they did so wrong that they would be willing to look like idiots in shul. Then I wonder if they are really crying, or show off crying to convince the rabbi that they are frummer than they are. Either way, my teshuvah is private, I love to talk and yell at God and at myself – but it’s really not a shul thing, especially because I have a terrible potty mouth when I talk with and do teshuvah to the Lord.
For instance this past Rosh Hashanah kind of sucked, sure the food was real nice, shared some super good wine with peeps and wondered about my departure from this lovely community due to work, but the overall repenting and shul experience sucked. The first day for me was just one long cynical commentary about how this is all so dumb, the second day I went to the San Jose sephardic minyan and the personal musaf was so long that I skipped half the thing because there was only so much abstract God praising I could do.
Then I decided to skip shul on Friday night, I was all shuled out and you know what happened? I cried my freaking brains out and wondered about life and all of my wrongdoings and all of the good shit that’s been happening that I don’t want to stop and of course every time I have one of these sessions I have to throw in a little skeptics rant about how crazy all this stuff is and how it’s nuts and how we’re going to die and see we were all wrong and what a waste that is. Anyway, the point is that I basically pissed away the whole Rosh Hashanah only to do my little intense prayer session on my front lawn during kabalas shabbos – yechidus always works better for me and here was the proof – so, nu why don’t you go to the woods for yom kippur?
Why shouldn’t I go to the woods for Yom Kippur? My davening will sure as hell be better, I wouldn’t have to sit through any more dull downed mussar shiurim or aliyah appeals, I won;t sit around and disturb people’s davening with my frivolous talk, I won;t sit around trying to see if there are any hotties on the other side of the mechitza and I won’t have anyone but God to hear my teshuvah. Of course I won’t go through it, I’ll think about what a good idea it would be to be poiking my head out of my tent watching sunrise while sayuing tehillim from 12,000 feet atop some ridge looking out onto the granite peaks of the Sierra, but is this what God wants. I always figured he wanted me to be in a minyan regardless, to suffer through it and to try and find meaning where I don’t. I stopped trying to actually say the words long ago, I clop my chest and do that whole thing, but rarely do I follow along in other parts. Instead, I read mussar seforim or gadol biographies and try to drift out of the shul to some beautiful place in my mind where I feel I have to give thanks and apologize for the shit I’ve done in the past year.
Ironically, the more skeptical of Judaism and religion I get, the more I can give in to teshuvah, because I start to look inward and the things I am trying to change are universal things which every person should try and change. I used to sit around and do teshuvajh for wasting seed, not washing negel vaaser and forgetting to bench, instead my teshuvah is much grander in my mind – I’m trying to change the way I feel and think. I’m trying to judge others favorably and use my powers for good (as hard as that may be) I am trying to never have a temper, never get angry and appreciate the abundance in my life of all that is good. The teshuvah has transformed me to focus on the good, I’m at the point where teshuvah is more about a device to remind me that it all can be taken away, rather than a clutch to use when shit doesn’t go your way. I’ve always felt that turning to God when it was going bad was pretty lowly when you retreated from him the second things went good – I’ve taken the opposite route, sure when it’s going bad it sucks. But for me, the good is scary, because when the good suddenly turns to bad it changes everything – so in my mind I like to give thanks for both and repent for both.
Jeez, Hesh, another one of your post holiday crazy rants about the inspiration, but really this is just my plead for inspiration when shul, organized religion and community cannot provide those tools – it’s all in the head man and I didn;t even smoke this past Rosh Hashanah.
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