the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the NY Mets, and the Rally Towel

I have a rotator cuff injury on my right shoulder, and the discomfort has made me grouchy and depressed. Earlier this week, on Yom Kippur eve, I didn’t feel like going to temple, so I did the next best thing —

Yes, I went to a NY Mets game on Yom Kippur eve.

Is this sacrilegious? Of course. Even Sandy Koufax didn’t PLAY on Yom Kippur.

But in many ways, coming to CitiField and watching a terrible team eliminated from the playoffs three months ago, get routed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, was a potentially more painful experience to atone for your sins than attending a religious service in a modern, comfortable, air-conditioned synagogue.

During the endless game, the evening air caressed my skin, and my mind drifted off into deep thoughts. I thought about the Holiest day in the Jewish year.

“What is the meaning of life,” I asked myself.

I also had other, more secular questions. Like —

1) What ever happened to the Wave? Why did everyone stop doing it at sporting events? Did it run its course, like the Macarena?

2) What do outfielders think about during the game? I played in the outfield during Little League; it was boring. I frequently prayed to God that the ball didn’t come towards me, fearful I would drop the ball. I always dropped the ball. I was also scared of the ball hitting me in the head and splitting my skull open like a watermelon. Perhaps professional outfielders, standing alone, isolated from the others, also think about God. In their freshly-laundered white uniforms, they appeared as much a sign of purity as the white cloth that covered the Torah.

3) During the fifth inning, the “kissing cam” appeared on the giant screen. Couples were picked out and urged to kiss. But how do the Mets cameramen know who is a couple and who isn’t? If I went to a Mets game with my female boss, would I be obligated to give her a French kiss? Do gays and lesbians get pissed off that they are never chosen for the kissing cam at the Mets game? I hope there is a lawsuit. There should be no kissing in baseball.

Throughout the evening, the Mets Organization used all sorts of gimmicks to keep us amused during a boring game. Imagine how many more Jews would go to High Holiday services if there were trivial contests, a Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Cup mascot shlepping through the aisles, and sexy girls shooting “free” t-shirts out of scary bazooka air-guns.

During the seventh inning, a cute girl in a Mets jacket roamed into our section, trying to rev us up, even though the Mets were getting their ass kicked by the Pittsburgh Pirates. She was carrying a large pile of — what seemed to me — dish rags for the kitchen.

But they weren’t dish rags. They were “rally towels.”

“Rally towels! Rally towels!” she screamed. I’m giving away free rally towels!”

Some kids in our section screamed in excitement.

“Over here! Over here!” yelled a little boy behind me.

“How naive is youth,” I thought, as she threw a towel at the boy. AS IF the rally towels would ever help the Mets win this game.

Just then, the Rally Towel girl turned her penetrating eyes towards me. It was like she could “feel” my sarcasm in the air.

“Hey, you with the glasses?” she yelled. “Why aren’t you cheering for the Mets tonight? C’mon, let’s HEAR IT?! Let’s go Mets! Let’s go Mets! Do you want a rally towel?”

“No, thanks,” I said, suddenly wishing I had gone to temple for Yom Kippur. I was also hungry, the only one in CitiField fasting.

“Sure you want a rally towel!” she said. “You gotta have a rally towel!”

She grabbed a towel from the top of her pile and tossed it at me. Her aim was as accurate as any ace pitcher. Out of instinct, I raised by right arm to catch the towel. Memories of Little League came alive, and I was back in the outfield. It was my big chance to redeem myself for missing the ball during that big game, causing our team to lose the Playoffs.

My arm shot back. The t-shirt flew into my hand. I caught it! I was redeemed! I also threw back my shoulder, and the pain was so intense in my rotator cuff that my cry reached the infield, my vision went black, and this became the first Yom Kippur where I felt as if I met God.

Yom Kippur 2008

I take Yom Kippur seriously. Well, somewhat. I’m not going to synagogue this year, but I will fast most of the day. Am I religious? Not really. But unlike the other Jewish holidays, which revolve around food and family, this one is serious and solemn, and that makes me a little scared and anxious.

I kinda like that. You can feel the AWE.

On Yom Kippur, it’s as if the entire world is on your shoulders. The way I see it, on Christmas, Santa Claus may not give you a good toy if you were a bad boy. On Yom Kippur, God might just stick you with a really crappy year for the same reason.

From Wikipedia:

Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּוּר‎, IPA: [ˈjɔm kiˈpur]), also known in English as the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn and important of the Jewish holidays. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

Yom Kippur is the tenth and final day of the Ten Days of Repentance which begin with Rosh Hashanah. According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a “book” on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Ten Days of Repentance, a Jew tries to amend his behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God (bein adam leMakom) and against his fellow man (bein adam lechavero). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Vidui). At the end of Yom Kippur, one considers himself absolved by God.

There has been debates FOREVER about the real meaning of this “book of life” and how God seals your verdict. Does God really decide who will live and who will die? What about free will? And during the service, why does every ask for repetenace for sins they didn’t even do – like murder and robbery? Are we responsible for everyone’s sins? And the biggest question of them all — why do bad things happen to good people?

Recently, I chatted with a blogger who is very into “the Secret.” She believes that we attract good things through positive thought. So, I asked her what the Secret said about bad things.

“What if you get hit by a bus?” I asked. “Are you attracting the bus to hit you?”

“In a way you are.”

“Why would you WANT to be hit by a bus?”

“Maybe there is some larger reason you don’t know about.”

I find that nonsense.

Last year, Kyran from “Notes to Self” wrote an interesting post about The Secret after she viewed the DVD. Even though she saw some merit in positive thinking, she came away with the same conclusion about using The Secret on a day to day basis:

What does The Secret have to say about all the bright and hope-filled children in the world who suffer?

Judaism is not The Secret, as much as Madonna might think so. The Secret is mostly about achieving personal success. Judasim is a covenant with God. But both have the same problem that all religions do –explaining the randomness of life, and all the bad stuff that happens in it.

That said, I am too afraid of ignoring Yom Kippur completely. Just in case.

May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

The following song about Elijah the Prophet by the Moshav Band is probably more suitable for Passover than Yom Kippur, but even on this holiest of days, it is still my blog, and I can do what I want.

Turning Over a New Leaf

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I fasted today, but I didn’t go to temple for Yom Kippur.  I just didn’t feel like going.  On Yom Kippur, there is an important memorial service, and it would have been the first time going to the service for my father, and I just didn’t want to do it.  So, instead, I just broke all the rules.  I went to CVS pharmacy, bought myself a $3.99 disposable camera and walked to Hermosa Beach.  It felt very spiritual walking around the beach looking for photos to take.  Or then again, it could have just been hunger.

If you have any interest, you can see the photos here.  One warning:  the photos are not THAT interesting, and I’m not in any of them, so don’t get too pissed at making you do an extra click of the mouse for nothing.   If you’re never been this this part of the country, maybe you can get a sense of the “sleepy” beach community I’m living in right now. 

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I’ve grown to like Southern California, but I find October depressing in the dry West.  I love FALL.  I love what it represents — a new beginning.  I think the time of the Jewish New Year makes a lot more sense than January 1st.   I love the change of the weather and the leaves and the new school year and the new TV season, and everything new that goes with Fall.  As I was taking my walk today, I realized that today’s weather in Los Angeles was not that much different than it was on July 4th!  Where’s the change? 

Most of my blogging friends do NOT live in California.  I know you sometimes laugh at us for being weird and electing actors to be governor, uh — TWICE.   But try to remember that the State of California has enhanced your life in many ways:  the birth of the internet, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, California Pizza Kitchen, and the word “gnarly.” 

Now it is your turn to pay us back —

Could someone help a Southern Californian who is homesick for Fall and email him a photo of a leaf or tree changing colors?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthMan in the Mirror

Yenta the Matchmaker for the Day

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In the old-country, Jewish marriages were arranged by matchmakers.  Perhaps the most famous Jewish matchmaker was Yenta.  Yenta was the name of the matchmaker in Sholom Aleichem’s stories, several of which were collected into what became the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”   The word “yenta” has taken on negative connotations in the modern word, and it is usually used to describe a “busybody.”

I’d like to defend the good name of matchmakers.  Being a busybody was part of the job.  A matchmaker HAD to sneak around and ask a lot of questions because she was a detective — always looking for clues that would help her make the best match.   In the Jewish tradition, it is also a mitzvah (good deed) to help make a successful match.

(from Matchmaker, Matchmaker — Fiddler on the Roof) 

Hodel:
Well, somebody has to arrange the matches,
Young people can’t decide these things themselves.

Chava:
She might bring someone wonderful—-

Hodel:
Someone interesting—-

Chava:
And well off—-

Hodel:
And important—

Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Make me a match,
Find me a find,
catch me a catch
Matchmaker, Matchmaker
Look through your book,
And make me a perfect match

I’d like to revive the spirit of Yenta the Matchmaker right here on this blog — on these special days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.   Tomorrow, Thursday, will be a special day on “Citizen of the Month.”  Tomorrow, we shall all become Yenta the Matchmakers. 

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I will be making blog matches between 10 pairs of bloggers.   These are not romantic pairings.  These are pairs of bloggers who I have never seen read each other’s material (I’ll check their blogrolls), but I think should give each other a try.  Using an ancient technique passed down from my grandmother, I will try to match bloggers by their sensibilities and interests. 

Recently I was successful in introducing Danny and Elisabeth to each other.  At first glance, they have nothing in common.  But a true matchmaker realizes that they are both brainy bloggers with a twisted sense of humor.   Now they are on each other’s blogrolls.  

This is not easy for me.  I do have a jealous streak.   I used to get upset when my “blogging friends” became friends with each other.   One day, I’ll be reading Blogger X and I’ll be surprised to see my friend Blogger Y writing a comment.  Before you know it, Blogger X and Blogger Y are taking a trip to Las Vegas together, without even sending me a postcard.

But the week before Yom Kippur is one of reflection and self-improvement.  I’m going to fight my jealousy and spread the love.   So, if I match you up with someone, give their blog a chance.  I know matchmaking is not a perfect science. 

Please join in tomorrow with some matchmaking of your own, maybe even mix and matching blogrolls.   Are you the type who is always saying, “These two bloggers really need to read EACH OTHER!”   If so, tomorrow is your chance to do a mitzvah by becoming a Yenta the Matchmaker for the day.

Update:  The matches.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthA Shanda (Yiddish for Shame)  (I really get Jewish at this time of the year, don’t I?)

 

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