Thursday, September 27, 2012
The fish shake
I love the image, the idea, that the Day of Atonement is so powerful, so harrowing, that even the fish in the sea shake in fear and awe. Oh yeah. I feel that level of awe on Yom Kippur, I do. If I were a fish, my fins would quiver, definitely.
Yom Kippur, for me, is a day that's almost too bright, too well illuminated. The Day of Atonement feels like taking a walk on Brother Sun. Naturally I always think of poor Icarus, even as I dare to draw closer and closer to the indescribable dissolving brilliance and mystery of God.
That's what's going on inside me. In the "real" world what happens looks like any other day. I see clients sometimes, go see the Sufi acupuncturist (as I did yesterday), that sort of thing. My inner life is vivid and very entertaining. I'm not saying it never spills out into the "real" world, but most of the time I appear to be a cheerful, quirky old lady, just living out my life, nothing more.
Last night I joined a group of Capitol Hill people who gather to break the fast at the end of Yom Kippur. They are all members of Temple Micah where I studied Judaism a few years ago. Some of them I see only once a year.
I love listening to them describe the sermon and the mood of the congregation. They complain about the parking situation which is always awful because Yom Kippur is the Easter of Judaism, the day when everyone comes to services. They arrive for the break fast dinner cranky and diminished, shriveled. They are hungry and dehydrated (as one would be after walking on Brother Sun, hey?) First they drink juice. As they hydrate, the way they plump out is almost visible.
After that, we sit down to a dinner of breakfast food - bagels and lox, deviled eggs, pastries and such. As they eat, they come back to themselves, they begin to laugh, their voices get louder. After a glass of wine or two, they are again fully clothed in their usual energy. It's as if they've been brought back from the land of the Dead. I love watching that process. It's miraculous, it really is.
I haven't fasted in many years. What I finally realized about myself is that my relationship with God is so intimate, I don't actually have to fast to get closer. God and I are like this (fingers pressed together). In my day to day life I have to work not to get too close. The years I fasted, I came out of the experience with the spiritual equivalent of a third degree sunburn. It wasn't good for me.
Divine energy is miraculous and it's wonderful to touch it every now and then, but too much of it makes people crazy, and I am crazy enough already. Indeed. Still I admire the devotion of my friends and neighbors who keep the fast. Wow.
The new year has arrived. I have put aside my life's ragged edges and loose ends and am ready to start anew. Hallelujah! And shalom.