It hasn’t even officially started yet and my mind has already jumped ahead to the end–the Yom Kippur Fast. I’m not going to lie to you–especially, because if I did it would give me one more thing to apologize for at services tomorrow–I have a hate/hate relationship with Yom Kippur.
The holiday depresses me. All the talk of the gates closing, the beating of our hearts and even the song about excusing us from vows? It is not a holiday I relate with happy or joy? And yet, in the midst of my self-inflicted depression which occurs every year during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur I do always have a reckoning with myself. (That’s probably why I get depressed.) I ALWAYS feel as if I am horribly astray in my work and home life. I beat myself up only to come back to the same place I was at the time of reckoning last year.
Last week before Rosh Hashannah one of my rabbis, in his weekly email blast, said in all the preparation for the holiday we tend to forget it is supposed to be a joyous and happy one.
(Side note, can someone please tell me if even though it takes a month or longer to prepare for Christmas if you forget it is a joyous day? I’m just sayin’.)
Here is an except of the email from Rabbi Steven Folberg of Congregation Beth Israel.
“Rosh Hashanah is a very happy holiday.
That may seem strange or counterintuitive at first. The prayerbook, after all, contains talk of “who shall live and who shall die” and “turning from sin.” Taken at face value, it may all seem terribly heavy, even bleak.
How, then, is this a happy holiday?
The answer grows out of something I’ve learned from a series of silent retreats sponsored by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. I’m part of a group of 50 Jews from all walks of life who are in training for certification as teachers of Jewish Mindfulness Meditation. We’re delving deeply into meditation, yoga and text study in order to better understand and embody the connections between mindfulness practice and Jewish practice.
Often, when meditating, you sit down with a very simple kavvanah, or intention: to pay attention to your breath. That seems like the easiest thing in the world to do, but in short order your mind begins to wander all over the place and you realize, repeatedly, that you have fallen away from your intention. Over and over again you awaken to the fact that you have forgotten your intention to focus on your breath. Maybe you are lost in thought about something that already happened, or planning or worrying about something that hasn’t yet happened.
When that moment of realization strikes, it’s very tempting, almost automatic, to slip into self blame mode: “I stink at this. I could be doing something else. What made me want to meditate, anyway?…”
But that moment when you realize that you’ve forgotten your intention can be a moment (as we say especially during the Holy Days) of teshuvah, of turning or returning. Realizing we are off the mark is a moment of waking up.
It is also a moment of great opportunity, and that’s where the joy lies.”
It all sounds very nice in theory and I will give it the good old college try tomorrow to pay attention to my breath and trying hard to get at the intention of my heart for the coming year.
Because, that is the joyous part of the holiday. We get together, eat “Jewish” foods, debrief (OK nit-pick) the sermons and plan ahead for the true joyous holidays to come (Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Thanksgiving, the Winter Holidays and then finally the secular New Year).
1. Pot Luck It! Who has the time to do it all? Between services and a headache from no coffee there is no shame in asking for your guests to bring and share.
3. Use Disposables! I know we’re all trying to be “green” these days and environmentally conscious. But, no one wants to do a load of dishes after all day at Yom Kippur services and not eating. (Again, there’s that no caffeine headache thing!) Use recyclables and call it a day. You can feel guilty about it next year.
4. Go easy on the wine! I’m not being cheeky here. Jewish holidays often invoke wine as a symbol of joy and community. And, as noted above, this is a ‘Joyful’ holiday. But, the last thing a host or hostess needs at the end of the day is a guest who is dehydrated and for lack of a better word de-classe. You don’t have to serve any wine and if you do–use small disposable glassware (See #3).
5. Sweet Tooth is Encouraged! No need to watch your waist line. Go for it. Honey and sweet are the food of choice during the high holidays. We all want to have a “Sweet New Year!” Since break the fast tends to be a breakfast meal–my favorite form of dessert is the coffee cake. Whenever, we’re talking hosting, we can’t go very far without a fabulous recipe from Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten. Here is her Sour Cream Coffee Cake. Yum. Yum.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.
Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.