Thursday, September 16, 2021

Reflections on Yom Kippur 5782

I grew up in an orthodox Jewish family in Toronto. Yom Kippur was a very special day. In accordance with customs and tradition we did not go to school or work on Yom Kippur. But it went further than that. We did not do any work and for reasons I could never understand we did not turn on lights...we didn't even tear toilet paper! (We tore off sheets beforehand.)  From the age of 10 I started to fast for part of the day. By the age of 13 I fasted the whole day. 

The thought that one day I might be posting a blogpost on Yom Kippur would have probably have given my mother a heart attack.

These practices continued until I moved to England in 1968 and experienced a very different Yom Kippur. Although I was living in Manchester, I went to London and spent the holiday with my cousins. Two distinct recollections are that older men wore hats in the synagogue, not just yarmulkes. But more importantly, after the synagogue service ended and we 'broke our fast', we went off to a big party. Jewish kids often met their life partners at the celebrations following Yom Kippur.In subsequent years I have enjoyed memorable Yom Kippur holidays in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. While I have continued to fast each year, other traditions have developed. Since 1968 (with one hiatus) I have kept a diary and every year, in the afternoon between services I would review my diaries from past years. (It is generally the only time I review them, other than to check out something specific.)

Three years ago I enjoyed a most memorable Yom Kippur. Just before the holiday, I had been invited to give a talk in Moscow, and eleven days later was scheduled to give a talk in Kazakhstan. Rather than return to Canada, I decided to spend Yom Kipper in Eurasia, but couldn't decide between Azerbaijan or Georgia. Azerbaijan was appealing since I discovered a community called Qirmizi where everyone was  Jewish 

However, since I was concerned I might not get internet service and hence be able to use Google Translate, I decided to go instead to Tbilisi Georgia. I booked into the Tiflis Palace Hotel because it was close to the Grand Synagogue and had a most remarkable day. You can read about it here

This year, Yom Kippur is also quite unusual. While the synagogue I currently attend Or Shalom is holding its service in the Jewish Community Centre, as it has done for years, attendance is limited and the service is also being broadcast over YouTube. (Services were previously held on Zoom, but sadly, one was 'Zoom Bombed' and so YouTube is being used. It's not the same since you can't see the congregants. Furthermore, many of the people I am accustomed to seeing in synagogue including the Wosks and Wassermans were not there for last night's service.

At any rate, I will now head off for services. As I finish this, I can't even try to imagine what my  Yom Kippur traditions might be like ten or twenty years from now, assuming I am still around. That said, this is still a special day for me, and while I did feel a bit guilty sending off a couple of important emails before sitting down to write this, I will try to enjoy a day of reflection, and atonement, which is what this day is about. 

Wishing any Jewish readers well over the fast! 


Unknown said...
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Michael Leader said...

Gut yontiff to you Michael! Wow you are in Tbilisi. This evening Alla and I will wish you L'chayim as we open a bottle of Saperavi here in Vancouver tonight. Regards, Michael Leader

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