It's Yom Kippur again today. For those who aren't sure or just don't know, that is the day when Jews mull over all the promises they haven't kept in the past year, the apologies they need to make, the things (like relationships, personal potential, resolutions of the past) they have let slip or the apologies they would like to get from others and try to scratch these off the list by taking action.
Most of notions about the New Year we have in the secular world of the west come from this holiday, New Year's resolutions, for instance. But like Ramadan, the holiday features fasting. We're lucky: in comparison to Ramadan, it's only one 24 hour period, not a whole month, but it's bad enough. You realize just how connected to the body you really are when you let the fuel run down. By the end of the day everyone is dull-eyed and listless, weak, leaning against the seat fighting to keep eyes open.
For me, it's always been a spa-day, to think and sing (I'm in the synagogue choir), to listen to beautiful music, to engage in discussion with others and apologize for the inevitable failings. I'm grateful for it.
But something happened last night at service that seems to me emblematic of my life at this time. It's a tough period for me. I don't know where I am, this late in my life, not feeling or being useful, anxious to find a place for myself where the odd, assorted skills I have gathered will be valued.
As we were preparing for the service to start, sitting up in the choir section on the bimah (the stage of the synagogue), someone drew my attention to a small object on the seat behind me in the tenor's section. It was an iridescent silk kippah (yamika, skullcap). It happened to be the exact mingled tones of the tallis (prayer scarf, with fringes) I wore, which I bought for my bat mitzvah perhaps 7 years ago. I had lost that matching kippah almost immediately, and had gone through a series of various kippot. At the moment though, I was without one. On this holiday, everyone who has a tallis and kippah is required to wear one. In most kinds of synagogues, it's only men who are required to. But in our Reconstructionist shul, women do it as well, if they wish to.
"That looks like yours," said Steve, pointing from the tallis to the kippah.
I shook my head. "No. It's beautiful, but it belongs to someone else."
In answer, Steve picked up the cap and put it on the back of the chair in front of me, where I scooped it up and put it on my head.
I have decided it means something. Maybe all the things I believe I have lost are not gone at all. They are all around me, waiting to be re-found. I will take it as a message from the universe, and I am grateful.