Not being able to attend Kol Nidre at a local synagogue, a friend mentioned how there are any number of services that live stream for the holiday. Now, of course, for the Orthodox among us, that is a big no-no. No electronic devices, no television and no computer. But being someone who is just this side of nonobservant Reform, it actually was just what I needed. In fact, it was a beautiful service. Every major prayer was explained, discussed, and associated back to our modern world. The Congregation was taught how to identify with the ancient scriptures of Yom Kippur.
Now the one part of the service which I usually do not enjoy is the sermon. I simply don’t like having someone pontificate to me about how I should feel, think or believe. If you haven’t figured it out already, I am a bit of a stiff-necked and recalcitrant Jew. Deciding on my own who I am, and how my Judaism fits into my life. But this time, the sermon was different. The young rabbi, and to me he was quite young, asked us if our 20-year-old selves, would be proud of the people we had become.
It was an interesting discussion of idealism, naiveté, youthful purpose and belief. The Rabbi challenged us to revisit that era of our youth when you, and you alone, had the power to believe in something greater than yourself, and to try to find a way to act upon that belief. The Rabbi talked about the difference between naiveté and idealism. How the term “idealism” has a poor connotation of foolishness and an adult’s inability to handle reality. He tried to explain that idealism is not a sense of poor judgement, but a belief that we can do better as human beings. I suppose that was the message of this Yom Kippur, and in fact every Yom Kippur that every was or will be…we as human beings can do better, no matter how good we think we have done.
Then as I lay in bed after the service, I started thinking about my 20-year-old self and whether I would be pleased with who I had become. I thought, no I would not. It was not the sense that I don’t try to do good deeds. Its not that I do not give to charity and try to help others. It’s that I have strayed from a very narrow and partisan path that I had thought would create a stronger and better world. My 20-year-old self, was very self-assured, self-possessed, but dogmatic, and self-righteous.
In other words, I was 20. With an entire life in front of me. Never really having had to endure hardship, never having had to deal with a sick child, financial difficulties, or society’s derision. For at 20 who thinks that hard, sometimes terrible realities and choices, will ever befall you? Who thinks that they will have to suffer or watch those they love suffer immeasurably? At 20 you see the storybook picture of the world in which you will inhabit, and how that land just over the rainbow will look. At 20 to paraphrase a treif ideal- the world is your oyster.
At 20 you do not think about the compromises that life requires you to make. You do not think about the choices that happen to the average person, or how sometimes life just can, and does, wear a person down. You are in effect quite the snob about what you believe, and look quite askance at anyone who doesn’t follow your parochial ideals.
Read the rest HERE.