Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

Growing Up Jewish – High Holiday Edition

September 09, 2010 By: Mel Category: Religion

Happy New Year!!!!! L’Shanah Tovah !!!!!*

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the big deal Jewish holidays.  If you work for a law firm, you might get those days off.  If not, you’ll be working, but the token Jew in your office might not.  (Note: If they are anything like me, they are not going to temple or observing in any way.)

As Jewish holidays go, Rosh Hashana isn’t too bad.  They make a special round challah bread that is extra delicious.  You dip it in honey for a sweet new year.  You wash it down with wine.  (Wine is pretty much ubiquitous for Jewish holidays.  It’s about the only Jewish tradition I’ve held on to.)

If you are an observant Jew, you will want to go to temple.  Of course, you might not be able to go to temple if you are broke.  That’s because you have to buy tickets for services on the high holidays.  (I’ll give you a moment to re-read that……)

Yes, you read correctly.  You have to buy tickets to pray.  I was trying to recall how much they cost when I was a kid.  I think it was something like $100 a pop and I’m pretty sure you got to hang out all day (oh, goody).  I checked around in DC and tickets seem to be running about $150 per person, per service.  So if you want to get your god on all day, you are going to shell out serious dough.

Of course, there are added expenses.  Perhaps you want to purchase a memorial book or child care.  That’ll be extra.  And the pressure to make an additional “voluntary” contribution is huge.  At the temple I grew up in, they used to pre-print donation cards with your name and leave them on your $100 seat.  You could fold over tabs to indicate how much you were giving – $50, $100, $500…  The next week, a list of donors would be handed out, grouped by their donation amounts, so everyone could see.  (You Catholics with your collection plates.  Pishaw.  Amateurs!)

The cash my family shelled out for tickets was a complete waste for my father and I.  (I would argue a waste for all of us, but at least my mother used them.)  My dad would last about an hour in his seat and then head out to the hallway to smoke cigarettes.  I would, of course, follow him.  About another hour of smoking in the hallway and he would announce to my mother that he was leaving.  Those who wished to escape had to take the opportunity or be stuck there with her all day.  For some reason, my sister often opted to stay.  (Why, Sister?!  Why?!)

The temple escape routine was pretty much the same for Yom Kippur as Rosh Hashana.  But Yom Kippur had some extra special tortures added to it.  Yom Kipper, the Jewish day of atonement, is when you ask forgiveness for all your sins.  Unlike Catholics, we like to save it all up for once a year.  We’re efficient like that.

You are supposed to fast on Yom Kippur (beginning at sunset the evening before and ending at Sunset on that day).  They even covered the water fountains at the temple.  My mother sometimes made it.  Sometimes she used her low blood sugar excuse to have a couple peanuts.  My sister said she used to bust my father sneaking things out of the kitchen cabinets.

As for me, once I was old enough, I used Yom Kippur as an excuse to fill my closet with junk food.  I distinctly remember a large box of Little Debbies and some Doritos.  “What, Dad?  No.  You don’t smell popcorn.”

And that’s basically it.  Tell that token Jew in your office to bring you back some round challah bread.  You’ll thank me.


* To all the silly people who stockpiled goods into their bomb shelters at the end of 1999.  Not everyone uses your calendar.  2000 passed us by a loooooong time ago by many counts.