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The bad Jew

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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.

Oy.

2 replies on “The bad Jew”

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.

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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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