September 25, 2012

Kol Nidre at the Vic

Well, you've probably guessed by the lack of video including me singing my heart out that I didn't make the finalists for Blogger Idol.

I'm pretty bitter about it.  So bitter that I think I won't eat anything all day tomorrow.

...actually I was going to do that anyway.  Tomorrow is Yom Kippur.

At any rate, Blogger Idol is inviting those of us who were cruelly eliminated without the opportunity to compete to participate in a sort of consolation prize- this week we get to share the Blogger Idol Challenge.

So now I'm going to write about my Kol Nidre traditions.

...actually, I was going to do that anyway.  Tonight is Kol Nidre.

Kol Nidre is the start of Yom Kippur.  Jewish holidays go from sunset to sunset, so if they're written into your calendar you might actually have the wrong date.  For example, my calendar says that today is Yom Kippur.  It's not.  Yom Kippur is tomorrow.  It just starts tonight.  Confusing, no?

Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement.  That means, you spend all day fasting, repenting for all the things you've done wrong in the past year.

My list of misdeeds this year is huge.  I've spent much of the last few months yelling at my kids.  I feel terrible about it.

But this is about my own personal tradition.

And my personal tradition?

Indian food.

You see, I'm fundamentally a bad Jew.  I can go a whole day without eating, that's not a problem.  On the contrary.  If I know it's coming, it's a *perfect* excuse to do what I love to do more than anything in the world...


Wait- what?

Erev Yom Kippur, the night that Yom Kippur begins, the night of Kol Nidre, before the sun goes down... you feast.  Because... why not?  After all, if you're going to spend the day hungry, you might as well start on a high note.

Golub Jamun
Well, I live in Chicago.  And something that you might not know about Chicago is that it is a city of food.  And there is LOTS of good Indian food in Chicago.

And every Kol Nidre, I go to my favorite Indian restaurant (which just so happens to be "all you can eat"), and I pig the eff out.

Back when Aunt Genocide lived in Chicago, this was probably our favorite night of the year.  We would eat alu gobi and samosas until they were coming out of our ears, and then cram in third and fourth helpings of rice pudding and golub jamun.

We'd then roll out of the restaurant and find our way to services.  Reeking of the most horrific Indian food belches you can imagine.  It's always good to be the people giggling through the most solemn service of the year.

Once Aunt Genocide moved away, I had to start finding replacements for my Kol Nidre Indian smorgasbord.  Fortunately for me, I married M, and he suddenly found himself obligated to watch me stuff myself with Indian food at volumes that terrified and confounded him.

Once we went with our friend Max, and I have to confess I actually needed to puke before we left the restaurant.  Which is to say, I puked before we left the restaurant.

Not my proudest moment.  I spent most of the next day atoning for it.

My children are blissfully oblivious of Kol Nidre.  They have yet to sit through a service in the synagogue, being all of nearly three years old.  And small children, pregnant women, and the infirm are not expected or required to participate in the fast.  So life for them won't change very much tomorrow.  And tonight, they are not coming with me to my Indian feast and Kol Nidre services.

...but that's because this year, tradition is being put on hold.

My amazing, wonderful, incredibly thoughtful husband got me a birthday present a few months ago.  This is a big deal. because for the first few years of our relationship all he got me were IOUs.  Seriously.  I finally cashed in on his IOU for chocolates and a back rub when he finally came through on his IOU for tickets to see Phantom of the Opera.  He was not the best gift giver.

So for my birthday, he got me tickets to see one of my all-time favorite artists and performers.  Ani DiFranco.

Fifteen year old me, ready for Ani
Unbeknownst to him, I have another personal tradition...

Every year, from when I was thirteen years old until I was twenty one, I saw Ani for my birthday.  I saw her in four states.  I saw her with my friends, my sisters, and all by myself.  I was exposed to artists who now rank among my favorites when they opened for her.  I've seen her at huge venues, and in tiny, intimate clubs.

Like the one my husband got me tickets for.  Tonight.

Being a pretty bad Jew, I decided to go to the concert rather than to attend Kol Nidre services.  Which just means I'll have more to atone for tomorrow.  But you can rest assured that I'm going to feel guilty every last moment that I'm there.

But... Ani is playing just two blocks away from that Indian restaurant.

So I'm going to go to dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant, probably call Aunt Genocide and talk for a few minutes about the insane golub jamun that they no longer serve, and then pig out like a crazy person.

And then I will solemnly sit through what will no doubt be an AMAZING performance.  And being utterly filled with rice pudding and naan and all manners of things colored with saffron, I'll reflect on my history of traditions.

I haven't seen Ani in seven years.  Since I last saw her, we both have changed.  We've both gotten married.  We've both had babies.

And now, we both write about that.

You see, Kol Nidre is a strange service.  It is not only about the beginning Day of Atonement, it is also about the relationship between Jews and God, and with themselves.  Kol Nidre is not a prayer, it is a pledge.  And a promise.  And an excuse for all the misdeeds of the coming year.

"By the permission of the Creator of the Universe, and by the permission of this congregation, we hold it lawful to pray with sinners."

And, "May all the people of Israel be forgiven, including all the strangers who live in their midst, for all the people are in fault."

Because we know we are human.  And we know we are imperfect.  And we are fundamentally ashamed of our imperfections, and that is one of the basic qualities of humanity.

And this is also what Ani has been writing about lately.  What I have been writing about lately.

About age, and time, and flaws, and hope.

From Mothering Magazine
In her latest album, she wrote about the peace and happiness of marriage and motherhood.  But she also writes about what is left to be done for her community.

And that is very much the essence of Kol Nidre.  That we live our lives ignoring what is most important, and instead we focus on the mundane.  Instead, we err and we sin.

But we proclaim that we will do better.

So I may not be going to Kol Nidre services, but I am observing Kol Nidre.

I am pigging the eff out at my favorite Indian restaurant, and then despite loving every second of Ani's performance, I am going to solemnly reflect on my life.  On the last seven years of my life.  On what has changed, and what I have done wrong, and what I can do better.

Chag samayach, lovely readers.

May God write you in the book of life for another year.


  1. I find it interesting to read about how you celebrate this Holy Day because my husband (who is NOT Jewish) celebrates it as well. He is with a church called The United Church of God and while he believes that Jesus was the Messiah, he follows Old Testament Holy Days since the idea is that well, those were the Holy Days that Jesus followed.

    So, he's working like a dog tonight, will hopefully get SOMETHING to eat before he gets off of work, will come home, and will fast from sundown to sundown. Our six year old will not be fasting (he was going to have her fast last year at 5 but I threatened to call the ped on him) but will have to forgo deserts for the day.

    POSSIBLY, we might be able to go out tomorrow once it's all over but knowing him, I highly doubt it. He's been really bad about doing much of anything in as far as dates go.

    Sorry, I know I probably sound bitter but this has not been the best of days for me and high holy days increases my stress levels tremendously being a fire breathing atheist myself.

    I think though I may have fewer issues with it if he actually went about it differently. You have traditions, things you do each year. We don't have that and I think that makes it a lot harder.

  2. You are a wonderful writer. I really enjoyed this. I was entertained AND I learned something. Pretty big stuff. Thank you!

  3. This is really wonderfully written and I do love Ani as well. Thank you for sharing this!

  4. I love this post! I seriously learned something today haha and love your writing style :D I'll be visiting back again!



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