Helping children find their fancy Shabbat clothes. Double-checking the time for Kol Nidre. Finding Mr. December’s tallit (prayer shawl) and putting it near the door so we don’t forget. Printing our tickets to the service. Adding just one more thing to the menu. Stopping—just for a moment, I’m very busy—to reflect on what I really, really want to change this year.
Such was my usual Erev Yom Kippur in years past, and such it would have been this year, were it not for COVID and its many ripple effects on my life. Instead I’m sitting by the lake, perusing the machzor and looking for a way to engage the children on this holiest of days.
Usually I take care of our domestic needs—food, clothing, transportation—and our synagogue takes care of the rest. The books, the readings, the children’s programming, the alternative study sessions for adults; all of these things are spread out before me like a buffet dinner where I’m a guest. This year, if I want anything approaching a full buffet, I’m going to have to prepare at least some of it myself. It’s daunting.
I’m unsure of how much prayer I should expect the kids to sit through. I’m unsure of how much prayer I want to sit (or stand) through, come to think of it. Services on Yom Kippur morning usually start around 9:30 and end well after 2:30 in the afternoon. This year, there will be a 90-minute service streamed from our synagogue, which is a more manageable length to be sure. But Zoom makes me feel very removed from the prayers. I might be better off just davening on my own.
I need to get a move on. The challah is rising, The table is (mostly) clean, and half of tonight’s dinner is made. I still have a date with a pile of books, my machzor, and some sticky notes.
Friends, if anything I have written, said, or done this year has caused you pain, I ask you to please forgive me (and also please let me know what it was so I can improve in the coming year.) To my Jewish (and Jewish-adjacent) readers: May we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life. G’mar Chatima Tova.