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Posts Tagged ‘Yom Kippur’

I opened my prayerbook yesterday on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, with the pale morning sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows and the white-robed rabbi and cantor solemnly approaching the bima.

The cantor sang the opening hymn and the rabbi stood ready to begin the Yom Kippur service.

“Good Yontov (Happy New Year),” he welcomed us congregants. “Please turn to page 285. But before we begin, let me call your attention to the iPad next to me.” He gestured to his right.

“I’d like to welcome Blah Blah who is spending a semester in Chile and joining us via Skype for our service this morning. Hi Blah Blah, and Happy New Year.”

Huh. Pretttyyy cool. I instantly recalled an article I read about a Rosh Hashanah service in Florida just 10 days earlier, during which the rabbi encouraged her young congregants to feel free to text. Pray, write, text, the rabbi had told them. You can read about that service here.

But back to me. After delivering the sermon, our rabbi mentioned that the information could be found on his podcast page. Cool thing number two.

As a tech and social media enthusiast, I am gratified to see this trend. I do believe there is a place for social media in many facets of modern life, including religious venues. And although yesterday I would not have felt comfortable pulling out my brand new iPhone5 (which, by the way, was practically burning a hole in my purse), I foresee a day when conversations taking place on the back channel (Twitter chatter that happens while someone is at the front of the room presenting) will be accepted as a valuable complement to the conversation. Far from being disrespectful, it can add another dimension to the experience, and instead of a speaker talking at the audience, he or she can facilitate a discussion in which many voices can be heard.

Social media not only connects us and makes our world smaller, it also provides unique opportunities for learning and growth. Perhaps someday we will no longer be told to “please silence your cellphones.”

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Sundown tonight marks the beginning of the holiest 24 hours on the Jewish calendar. The evening service, known as Kol Nidre, ushers in Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, a somber period of fasting, reflection and repentance, which lasts until sundown tomorrow night.

According to Jewish belief, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah and waits until Yom Kippur to seal the verdict. We take a frank look at mistakes we have made in the past year, and what we can do to right those wrongs. We consider ways to become a better person.

This day of introspection and prayer is preceded by a hearty evening meal of challah, brisket or chicken, noodle kugel or other calorie-laden Jewish dishes that purport to stave off the hunger pangs tomorrow (note: it doesn’t work). After our bellies are stuffed with apple cake and rugelach, we will stagger from the table and leave for synagogue.

But … wait a minute. Isn’t there a baseball game tonight? The Very Important Game 5 of the National League Division Series between our beloved Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals?

Oy.

This is a perfect example of religious beliefs and modern culture colliding in a most inconvenient way.

This dilemma has presented itself in the past, perhaps most famously in the case of Sandy Koufax. Jewish people are fond of recalling the decision of the legendary Brooklyn/ L.A. Dodgers pitcher who declined to pitch Game One of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. A mensch (good person), say the Chosen People with pride. Really? question those for whom baseball IS a religion.

My friends, unlike the ancient scribes who pondered these things for a living, I do not have the answer. Nor will I judge you one way or the other, whatever your decision may be. I will leave you with a joke published in The Philadelphia Inquirer this morning:

A guy calls his rabbi and says, “Rabbi? I have a problem. I have tickets to the Phillies-St. Louis game and it’s Yom Kippur. What should I do?”

“No problem,” says the rabbi. “You can record it.”

“Oh!” the guy cries. “That’s great! I didn’t know you could record Kol Nidre!”

Shana Tova, and may all of you, no matter what your faith, be inscribed in the Book of Life.

And go Phillies!

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