Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Non-Traditional Yom Kippur: The Run Down

I wish I could say that everything turned out the way I planned it to.
But then (to wax philosophical) nothing ever really turns out the way people plan, does it?

In any case, for logistical reasons that I won't go into here, the camping part of my Yom Kippur plan didn't happen. The night of Yom Kippur, I stayed home, read a book (nothing particularly earth shattering), and yes, I ate a little bit.

But early on the morning of Yom Kippur, I got in a car, and drove about 2 hours to go hiking in a beautiful mountain/forest area.

The hike itself was incredible, especially because I hadn't been hiking in so long. The leaves were already changing colors and the sky was completely clear and my mind was able to do that contemplative, almost meditative thing that I had anticipated it would.

I kept in mind during the hike that it was Yom Kippur that day and it did alter the experience to feel more like self-growth and to keep my mind somewhat focused on the year behind me and the year ahead of me. I will say that on a personal level, it was much more meaningful than anything I've ever experienced on Yom Kippur in shul (or, more likely, lying on the couch, feeling weak, and counting the hours until I could eat again).

That said, I did find myself feeling guilty at times. Not on the hike itself, but while on the way there (i.e., while driving), in the morning while getting ready to leave, and even a little bit on the way back.

I wish this wouldn't have been the case, but it was. Somewhere in my brain, there was this little voice that kept saying, "But it's Yom Kippur!" At these times, I felt more guilty than I ever had while sneaking snacks at my parents' house on Yom Kippur. Or maybe I really just felt weird about it? I'm not sure...

I think, if I'm completely honest with myself, there's a not-so-small part of me that lives somewhere in my conscience that is still Orthodox, has an Orthodox mentality, and judges myself based on those standards that I once learned. This is the part of me that was not okay with my non-traditional Yom Kippur. It's also the part of me that every once in a while looks at my life despairingly because I haven't kept Shabbos in so long.

But if Yom Kippur is a time of self-realization, then I suppose it's useful to at least acknowledge this part of who I am. How long it will continue to exist, I'm not sure. But I do know that it's as real a part of me as the woman who decided that a non-traditional Yom Kippur was more relevant to her life and experienced that sense of peace while hiking.


Philo said...

My Yom Kippur was far more traditional than yours, but I did take multiple breaks to walk outside along tree-lined streets and reflect. At a certain point, sitting in shul became counter-productive to what I felt I should be feeling.

I wonder if the internal Orthodox you still has the hold on you that she does because of your lack of place in a Jewish community that isn't Orthodox. If you found a place for yourself in Reconstructionism, as someone else suggested, or in Jewish Renewal, you might have communal affirmation of heterodox ways to celebrate Judaism, and the Orthodox voice inside you will fade. And the great thing about many heterodox movements is that they don't demand control over every part of your life like Orthdoxy does. You can have much of your life that has nothing to do with Judaism, and engage with Judaism at whatever level or depth you want. Of course, I'm still sort of embedded in the Orthodox world, albeit the far left-wing of it, so feel free to discount my advice :-)

By the way, you used the term "I" when describing your hiking experience. Did you go hiking alone? If so, I would just be cautious of doing so in the future. I went hiking with a friend in the mid 90's and broke my ankle very badly. If my friend hadn't been there to get help, I might not have made it out.

Puzzled said...

It's also possible that the reason you aren't comfortable in non-orthodox Judaism is because of that internal Orthodoxy. It's one thing to be at the mall on a Saturday (speaking from experience) but much more jarring to be driving to a shul without a mechitza, reading the Torah on Friday night, lighting candles after dark, etc.

On Her Own said...

Thanks for your comments, Philo & Puzzled. I'm starting to think that while non-Ortho Judaism can be fulfilling and nice in certain ways, it doesn't fill that need for Judaism for me because of that nagging, persistent Orthodox voice in my head.

I do think it might be possible to quiet that voice eventually though. I'm not sure it's due to lack of community, Philo, because, to be fair, the Jewish community that I live in is so blurry on denominational lines. So if I go to the Orthodox shul, I'd see some of the same people I'd see at a Renewal service a few days later... Although maybe I just need to push myself into trying other denominational services again. We'll see!

Yael Lorant said...

I will be hiking tomorrow with a couple of friends. Did you fast? Do you recommend it?