This year I decided to go into Yom Kippur with an open mind, maybe I could do the communal teshuvah thing after all, maybe I could find some meaning in the text and do proper teshuvah. I just hoped that my erev Yom Kippur wasn’t a peak into the things to come. Erev Yom Kippur was a pretty terrible day, which was probably my fault for doing a pretty strenuous mountain bike ride on an empty stomach and missing mincha and shachris and all the other erev yom kippur stuff you’re supposed to do, like wave chickens around your head and go bathing with other naked men in lukewarm water.
Kol Nidre was pretty good, although I prefer a deeper voice than the chazzan could muster because I think it makes things a bit more eerie. For some reason I always feel that Yom Kippur should be eerie, this may be the reason I decided to stay after shul and ignore everyone’s chatter to put myself into tefilas zakah. If you really want to get into YK, I really recommend reading tefilas zakah, I did it in English (fact is I do all the viduy in English and I feel like there’s no point to confessing your sins if you don’t know exactly what you’re saying)
Reading tefilas zakah brought me to two conclusions, the first was that I really am not cut out for communal prayer and teshuvah, the second was that it was written for the community and it makes one feel a whole boatload better to know that everyone is sinning and everyone is pretty much asking forgiveness for the same things. For instance, tefilas zakah breaks down all of the body parts and all the ways you sinned with them, thank God it’s not like the author of nisanah tokef and we don’t get our feet and arms cut off, but it makes you feel pretty shitty and although Yom Kippur is “supposed” to be the happiest day of the year – I’m willing to bet that most everyone feels like a piece of shit after their viduy.
Doing a ta’anis dibur was probably the thing that made this Yom Kippur so much better than past ones, it forced me to shut up – which is hard to do. It also forced me to refrain from idle chatter (there are some al chaits devoted to this sin) and it forced me to look inward and up to the lord. Of course, I spent most of the communal prayer time reading commentary and gadol biographies (Reb Elchonon Wasserman may have been a gadol – but I really don’t like him from what I read during musaf)
Of course, my ta’anis dibbur was sort of broken when some hotties walked into shul during one of the rabbis speeches and I signaled to my buddy to take a gander at the two Israeli’s over yonder – I didn’t talk – I merely pointed discreetly, getting him to sin by gazing at women lustfully. For the first time in my life, I stood for the entire neilah and actually said all the slichos and repetitions. Of course, I woke up at 11am and although I stayed in for Musaf, Hashem hardened my heart and forced me to sleep through mincha and I made it on time for the Rabbis mussar madness before neilah.
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