Some folks love Thanksgiving. Many Jewish friends of mine swear by Pesach. My favorite holiday?
I was not always a Yom Kippur Jew. It took the awesome surroundings of Yeshivat Har Etzion, praying alongside hundreds of my peers, teachers and roshei yeshiva, to open my eyes to the beauty of Judaism's most sacred day. One of my key concerns when I left Israel for university in Baltimore was whether I would find a community, a prayer service, where I could sustain my connection with Yom Kippur.
Yeshivat Ner Yisroel my first year was good but not quite me. Luckily the next year I found my Yom Kippur home. For the last three years I have prayed with the NYU Student Minyan, relying on the mesmerizing service led by Rabbis Sarna and Korn to provide me with the once a year experience I could not do without.
Now I am back in Israel for the first time since I fell in love with what it means to devote an entire day to stepping outside and within, twenty-four hours given over to contemplating past, present and future, an entire day to embrace Judaism's core value of teshuva.
A lot has changed in my life since I wrote to many of you in September 2008. After a year in Washington, I have taken dual citizenship and returned to Israel. My current home is a modest kibbutz along the Jordanian border, full of date trees, a meat-packing plant and a roving band of peacocks. Two weeks ago I was drafted into the Israel Defense Force. In two short months, I will don a green uniform and report for basic training. The times, as a fellow Minnesotan once sang, are a changin'
After November it will become increasingly more difficult to keep in touch. Please help me out and write as you can. I will do my best to quickly respond, via this blog and of course through personal correspondence.
On my ride into kibbutz this morning, a beautiful rendition of Untaneh Tokef, the one prayer of the High Holidays that no listener ever forgets, was playing on the radio. The strange bit was that the station had no religious affiliation. Later my kibbutz mother explained that the tune playing on the radio was composed on a nearby kibbutz after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when dozens of young men fell in the terrible fighting. The tune has became part of Israeli culture, and so every year, as Israelis prepare for Yom Kippur and recall the harrowing days of October 1973.
Finally, to those who missed Leonard Cohen's final public performance, in front of 50,000 admiring fans in Tel Aviv, David Horovitz's article in the Jerusalem Post does as much as anything to capture the poignancy of the performance. Read here.
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