Thursday, September 09, 2010

Random Thoughts on Rosh Hoshanah

Sitting in temple for two and a half hours of Rosh Hoshanah services gives one's mind plenty of time to wander, especially when the cantor's belting out several minutes of some incomprehensible Hebrew tune.

So here's some of those thoughts:

--Why is the service so long? Hasn't anyone ever heard of editing? Wouldn't it be great if the college of rabbis, or whatever they're called, used some modern techniques to determine ideal human attention span and designed a service that people would enjoy?

--Why is so much of the service in Hebrew? The Jews who started these services spoke Hebrew, so it made sense to them. But as a reform Jew, who like most reform Jews learned how to read Hebrew for bar mitzvah purposes, but certainly never learned to understand it, why stick with the old language?

--Why is so much of the service meaningless. Most of the blessings are about the greatness of God, or some event that took place 5000 years ago. Why not craft blessings that would make modern Jews think about their role in the modern world? And why not incorporate more recent events? Yes, the exodus was great. But so was the 6-day war.

--One prayer repeated throughout the high holy days talks about how it is written on Rosh Hoshonah, then sealed on Yom Kippur, who shall die by various means--fire, water, sword, etc. Again, that made sense when the Hebrews wrote the prayer--that's what killed them then. Why not update it: who shall die by heart attack, who by stroke; who by diabetes and who by cancer; who by auto accident and who by gunshot.

--The weird thing about religions is that the people who start them don't glom on to the past to create them, but the people who perpetuate them feel a need to stick with the past after it no longer makes sense. Orthodox Jews wont' drive on the sabbath because that would be "work". The only reason for this is that before cars, people used horses. For a horse, it is work. Cars are inanimate. Anyway, religion ought to try to stay relevant.

--Is there really a point to having someone sing a long song in a language no one understands? This is when the mind really starts to wander. I like a little music in the service, but we could cut out a lot of the mind-wandering time.

--The story of Abraham and Isaac. What's up with that? What if the Bible told the story from Isaac's perspective? "Ok dad, first, you lied to me. You said god would provide a sacrifice when, in fact, you crazy coot, you were planning on sacrificing me!" We'd especially like to know what Isaac thought when Abraham tied him up and put in on the altar. Did Isaac go on any more trips with his dad after that?

--Why aren't there very many young people at the service? Oh yeah--see above.

P.S.--I remembered one more after posting this: why is Rosh Hoshonah called the "new year"? The Bible says that it is to occur on the 1st day of the seventh month--hardly the beginning of the year!

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