The bad Jew


For the first time in, oh, forever, I’m not in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah.

We were supposed to go last night, but services started very late and we voted—as a family—to celebrate at home. Which we did. We ate together, lit candles, said prayers, talked about the highs and lows of the year, made a promise to do a miztvah every day between now and Yom kippur.

And today … well, I just don’t feel like going.

I’m sorry, but I don’t. Because here’s what happens: I put on my suit and tie and loafers just like most of the other somewhat-non-believing-but-sorta-believing-but-really-going-out-of-ritual-or-tradition-or-guilt Jews I know put on their suits and ties and loafers. And we arrive at synagogue, say hello to the familiar faces, and … then we sit. And look at the clock. And look more at the clock. And look more and more and more at the clock. I listen to the rabbi, but lose interest quickly, because it’s the same stuff I’ve been hearing for 40 years, and I’m even tired of old Hall & Oates records by now. So this stuff is REALLY tiring. Ultimately, instead of feeling closer to the God I don’t actually believe in, I simply feel frustrated and agitated and itchy to leave. I wonder why the rabbi never address climate change; wonder why (the alleged) God blessed me 1,000 times over but gave some impoverished kid in Africa AIDS; wonder if there’s a more valuable way to use this time. But, because I’ve overloaded with the guilt of my people, I sit and yawn and scratch and nod off, and tug at my necklace and rub my knee and get up to use the bathroom—even when I don’t have to go.

And while there is something to be said for repetitive tradition and repetitive culture, I don’t really long for those things this year. I’d rather be with family, take a hike, think about life and eat a nice home-cooked meal with those I care about.

I’m a bad Jew.


2 thoughts on “The bad Jew”

  1. You aren’t a bad jew even if you sort of believe or not. I haven’t been to temple in years. Like you I went sort of out of guilt and habit. Plus my wife kind of made me go. She joined a Chabbad, so no I don’t have to. In fact she didn’t go to our temple for a while because she didn’t care for the rabbi. So don’t feel bad. Spending time with your family seemed a better idea.

  2. As a non-believer of any faith, why celebrate at home? You may enjoy the reflective time with family, but why the candles, prayers, and promises? Just curious.

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