The Jewish holidays evoke in many a fear of sitting in shul. Again and again. Hours on end. I have been trying to craft a spiritually uplifting and meaningful prayer experience at my shul,. As I do so, I have been acutely sensitive to the fact that people want that spiritually uplifting and meaningful experience in less than 2 hours. Balancing the beauty of the High Holiday liturgy, with a need to get through them quickly is a humbling experience.
And yet, perhaps, the driving foundational issue, that keeps people from being glued to their seats is a sense of boredom with Judaism and religious ideals in general. A few weeks ago, Erica Brown, the scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington wrote an article in the Jewish Week, “Boredom Is So Interesting.” http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c55_a16513/Editorial__Opinion/Opinion.html
In it, she proposes that the problem with Judaism is not the rituals, the culture, or history. Judaism remains a rich tradition. Rather, it is us, the individual who is to blame. She quotes the poet Dylan Thomas, “Something is boring me. I think it’s me.” When boredom strikes, she says, “it’s time to look in the mirror.”
On Yom Kippur, we will read the story of Jonah and how God called out to him. But Jonah ran away, trying desperately to escape God’s call by hiding in the deepest recesses of a ship, and then falling into a deep slumber. Jonah attempted to escape God’s presence. Shun God’s calling.
Many of us, if we would just open ourselves to the possibility, have a keen spiritual sense; we can sense the presence of God. The question is, what do we do with that calling. Do we try to run away, unshackle ourselves from the weight and responsibility of a religious call? Or, do we move towards the calling—like Moses, who beseeched God, “Show me your glory” (Shemot 33:18), right before God’s presence passed before his face.
Perhaps we should each challenge ourselves, this Yom Kippur, to think about the reasons that we are drawn to Jewish community, and then think of the reasons that we want to stay away. Is it because we are spiritually numb? Alienated? Feel out of place? Or experience a disconnect with synagogue ritual and liturgy?
Then consider figuring out how to re-engage. How each of us can re-invigorate our Judaism to make it both more intellectually and spiritually stimulating.