Finding my version of spiritual identity.
By Gregory Jacobs-Roseman (Composer-Lyricist)
It’s fall (well technically it’s fall this coming Wednesday, but who’s counting?), which just so happens to be my favorite season. Something about the days getting shorter and cooler, the dog days of summer finally over, and the holidays just around the corner, I just love it all. Every year September brings something else with it, though: the Jewish High Holy Days.
As many of you probably know last week was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and this coming week is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, where you fast and atone for your sins from the previous year.
Growing up these were major days on the calendar for my mother, who takes her faith very seriously. I, on the other hand, found them to be a painful obligation. The hours sitting in the temple, standing and sitting and sitting and standing, the sermons, the call-and-response – as a kid it can be excruciatingly boring.
The one thing I did connect to was the music. I was raised as a reform Jew, so the temple was always flooded with music from the organ as well as singing. During Kol Nidre services (services held at sundown the night before Yom Kippur) my synagogue would hire professional opera singers and a cellist to fill out the massive church organ and the sound was truly breathtaking.
But again, these services were an obligation to my mother. I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God.
When I got to college I attempted to attend High Holiday Services in Boston but at the time they were pretty out of the way – trekking out to Boston University for Yom Kippur services where I accidentally attended the orthodox service (the men separated from the women and everything), I left pretty certain that I was going only because I had done so every year of my life before (and because of fear of my mother’s wrath), not because I believed in God and that I would somehow be punished if I didn’t attend.