Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day of Atonement

Today is Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement and the most holy day of the year for Jewish people. I have to know these things now, working for a Jewish company and dating one. The office was empty today, as were the streets. The Anesthetist has been at home fasting all day and is now getting ready to go to the "Synagogo" as he calls it. I'm such an ignorant heathen that when my Jewish colleagues asked me yesterday if he would be fasting, I blithely responded, "No, he'll be slaving away at his hospital all day, thinking of dinner and what red wine he wants. " Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong. No wonder they looked at me with pity.

Yom Kippur started at sundown last night and ends at nightfall tonight. It follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which was celebrated 10 days ago. During these in between 'Days of Awe,' you are supposed to seek forgiveness from friends and families. Then today is all about abstaining from everything - food, drink, sex, email - and attempting to mend your relationship with God. This is partly done by reciting the 'Vidui,' a public confession of sins.  The rest of the day, according to the Anesthetist, is filled with much navel gazing and balancing up your good with your bad on God's measuring scale. He hasn't asked me for any forgiveness this past week which I find odd to say the least, so either he thinks he's in the positive or his balance sheet is so bad he's afraid to face it.

I really wanted to go with him to the Synagogue tonight so I could hear the Shofar being blown. The Rabbis used to blow a ram's horn but now it could be made of any material. It has a wonderful history that you can read about here.

After learning more about Yom Kippur,  I realized that I actually do have a connection to this religious day - through music. At the beginning of evening service on every Yom Kippur, communal prayers commence with Kol Nidre, a legal document that is chanted with haunting undertones.  It turns out that when I played the cello many moons ago, my favorite and most spiritually moving piece was the Kol Nidrei Op. 47 by Max Bruch. I never understood then the religious significance of this music, only that it touched something deep inside me. I used to continually listen to a recording by my musical heroine Jacqueline Du Pre and vowed that one day I would play the piece with as much intensity as she. I'm not sure I ever made it to that level, but I still think it's one of the most beautiful pieces ever written for cello. Here is another musical hero of mine - Pierre Fournier - playing it. Enjoy.

image: reform judaism

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