Thursday, August 29, 2013

news flash: Rosh haShana involves hard work

While walking to shul one morning I saw my neighbor in front of his house doing what looked like pretty intense stretching exercises and I remembered that my wife had mentioned that he was planning to run the marathon in a few months, so I assume he was getting ready for his morning run.  I cannot imagine myself, considering that I spend most of my day sitting on an office chair, even doing the warm up exercises he was doing.  For me to even think of entering the marathon would be ridiculous!  Everyone knows that it takes weeks if not months of preparation and training to be ready.
So can someone please tell me why it is newsworthy (see here and here, for example) that Jews who show up to services a handful of times a year find Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur davening to be boring and uninspiring and can’t understand or appreciate what is going on?  Would it be newsworthy if I decided to go jogging one day a year and found that I could not do the marathon -- it was too hard? 

Then you have the attempts at “alternative” services.  Since davening is boring, why not mix in some jazz, some Buddhist meditation, etc.?  Since running all 26 miles of the marathon is hard, why not just run around the block instead?  Instead of putting in time and effort to do something hard, instead, substitute something easier and more palatable or something that you find personally meaningful.  Design your own marathon course and praise yourself for creativity, for responding to your authentic inner voice, without being chained to the course and regimen that others needlessly subject themselves to. 

Of course that doesn’t work.  It’s the fact that it is so very hard and requires so much training that gives meaning to the accomplishment.  The same in part can be said of the chagim.  Teshuvah is hard to do.  Tefilah requires intense concentration, work, and effort.  It requires preparation.  You can't walk into Rosh haShana and say "Give me something meaningful, inspiring, G-dly, and do it in 60 minutes or less so I can get home for dinner and catch the latest TV special."  If clergy were truly honest, instead of offering to their congregants meditation, poetry readings, internet services, and whatever other shtick they dream up, they would deliver that one message and send everyone home to think about it. 


  1. I thought Abby's article actually went in the right direction in the end...Emphasizing the importance of Jewish education and cultivating a sincere appreciation for the tefillah rather than expecting it to entertain you on a superficial level.

  2. You're right. Maybe I shouldn't have lumped it together with the JW article. The JW has another article on how to celebrate R"H if you are an atheist.