Happy Birthday and congratulations on another year in the history of the world! We’ve had a couple of close calls with the superstorms and the psycho dictators with nuclear weapons and all, but hey, it’s all still here, right?!
On this Erev Rosh Hashanah, which is like secular New Year’s Eve except that instead of partying with friends we’ll spend time in synagogue asking for forgiveness for being stupid humans and trying to contain the shpilkes of Little Yenta Girl (who is no longer so little) as she drums out that infernal Cup Song on the pews. Which is to say it’s nothing like secular New Year’s Eve.
We’ll eat apples and honeycake that I will probably burn this afternoon because being farblonget is what I do. We’ll cast bread crumbs in the river to represent out sins. We’ll listen to the shofar crack the silence and let the hum move through our bodies.
We’ll chant “B’Rosh Hashanah yika-teyvun, Uv-yom tzom kippur yey-chateymun” — on Rosh Hashanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed — and pray that we’re praying the right way so we’re written into the Book of Life for another go ’round.
I hope you’ll overlook my lameness as far as the other Jewish traditions go, like eating chicken parmesan and lighting the candles late. And, also, bacon.
As a Jew, I also know I’m supposed to put the dash instead of the “o” to show respect for Your name, but since “God” is just a word in a language that didn’t evolved until waaaaay after the Torah was written, it’s not really Your name anyway, right? There’s so many names in Hebrew, and then all the other names in other languages, too. So I couldn’t use your ACTUAL name in vain even if I wanted to. Which I wouldn’t (on purpose,) because (mostly) I try really hard to be a good, decent person. Also, I’ve read a few things about what happens when people piss You off.
But using the dash instead of the “o” makes me feel like a poser. Like I’m trying to pull off that I’m more religious or spiritual or observant or righteous than other people, and that’s bogus. I dunno, I kind of think that You’d rather me examine the deeper motives of my choices than pretend like dicking around with punctuation makes me holier than thou (or Thou, as the case may be.)
But God, You and I talk way more often than a couple of days a year, mostly when I remember to stop kvetching and gossiping and obsessing and remember You. I might have already told You this already today, but I’m glad and grateful that my children are healthy and kind, that my parents are setting an amazing example of how fabulous elder life can be, that my work moves forward (even if none of the thousands of columns and articles and blog posts have added up to a book) and that I’ve maybe been able to help others a little bit, even in the boring, quiet ways that don’t bring recognition or even thanks.
I’m especially happy to have settled on the belief that it’s notsomuch the law-following and pious prayer that makes me a good Jew but the compassion for others, the wide-eyed awe of Your Creation, the shoulder-to-rock work of making the world a better place in the way that we can, even if it’s just sharing a piece of burnt honeycake with my neighbors.
So, no dashes, no dicking around for 5774. Just me and You, God, and all the rest of us looking for meaning in the bright spark of time between birth and death. Let’s do this.
Mad respect, yo, and thank You for it all. Whatever Your name is.