Friday, September 25, 2009

Stand on your head!

This week I heard a poignant story from a colleague overseas. A woman in his community shared a unique anecdote about her father as a child. It was Yom Kippur and the young boy accompanied his father to Shul. During the service, the congregation’s focus was disturbed when the lad walked to the front of the Shul and did a handstand in front of the Ark. Embarrassed, his father quickly led him back to his seat and then asked what had possessed the boy to do something so strange.

The youngster replied simply: “You told me that we have to do something difficult on Yom Kippur, and for me that was difficult”.

Different people experience Yom Kippur differently. For some, it’s a meaningful, focused and inspiring time when they are swept up in the experience of the day, barely noticing the fast. Others struggle with not eating or, more often, not drinking but push themselves to daven and to try connect. Then there are those who check in for the main services- Kol Nidrei, Yizkor and maybe Neilah- then quickly check out. Some Jews don’t even get to Shul, they simply sleep the day away and count the hours till it’s over.

Group A often looks askance at the others, who they feel miss the point of what this special day is about. Well, maybe they are the ones who have missed the plot. Those of us who understand the service and get involved and inspired because we appreciate what’s going on feel comfortable in Shul. We’re not in Shul out of dedication nor do we find it difficult to be there. Those who come to Shul begrudgingly because they “have to” are challenging themselves. If someone comes to Shul and cannot read Hebrew or doesn’t relate to the service they clearly are not there for their own benefit- they’re out of simple dedication to G-d. Dedication is worth far more than going through the motions or even feeling inspired.

This Yom Kippur, we need to challenge ourselves; to find something difficult to do; to take our commitment over those 24 hours to a completely new level.We need to stand on our heads. G-d always responds to us in line with our movement towards Him, hopefully He will take the tzoris in our lives and turn it on its head too.

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