In “An American’s Yom Kippur in Israel” (Oct. 10), Charles Ticho relates his wonderful Yom Kippur journey, spanning many decades, from the Shoah to this year in Israel. Having spent Shavuot b’Aretz (in the Land) this past year, I can relate.
Sixty years ago, I spent Yom Kippur in a different kind of galut. My family was sent to the wilds of Appalachia. The nearest synagogue, along with a supermarket, was 35 miles away, down a winding two-lane mountain road. On a good day, without snow, it was a one-hour drive.
That year, my father fasted and davenned alone in the living room of our trailer park home. It was not the same experience as being in his home shul in Passaic. And in fact, the Day of Atonement confessional prayers (“Ashamnu”) are phrased in the plural. Prayer is not the same in solitude. A minyan, a community, counts.
Mr. Ticho’s experience in Israel could have been enhanced by finding a local Masorti synagogue – there are about 80 at last count. He might have felt more at home in places with other Anglos. He also noted that he missed the sound of the shofar. So did every other Jew – the shofar is sounded on Rosh Hashanah, otherwise known as Yom T’ruah, the Day of Blowing.
On Yom Kippur, shofar is sounded only at Neilah. This year, since Yom Kippur fell on Shabbat, there was no shofar blowing. Next year, we will hear the shofar again, starting in the month of Elul leading up to the Yamim Noraim. Whether you are in Israel or the diaspora, we will all have that opportunity to wake up again.
It is wonderful that Mr. Ticho was able to spend time in Israel, at this special time of the year. Perhaps I, too, will one day celebrate Rosh Hashanah in the land of our ancestors. Listening to the shofar at the Kotel, among thousands, must be an extraordinary experience.
And this year, for the first time in history, a Masorti egalitarian kehillah was able to conduct services there. It’s home away from home – but will the real home please stand up?
L’shanah tova – no matter where we live!