Erev Yom Kippur
Stopped from work early, the
spirit of Erev Yom Kipur is spread
over the streets of New York,
sunset is approaching and so the
holiest of nights I just lit the
light for my fathers soul should rest
I can hear now the prayers
and crying of the women in my
house as they are preparing to
go to the worship houses.
It is deeply touching.
I am so serious and embued
with a religious feeling.
May this year bring happiness
and joy to all of my family, friends
and all Israel, Amen.
I am off now to the Synagogue
to offer my prayers to the Allmighty
Yom Kippur is a solemn, enthralling holiday for observant Jews, a day of fasting, prayer and, most significantly for Papa this year, open mourning for loved ones. The approach of this day and its attendant focus on his father's recent death has, I think, embroiled Papa in a hidden drama for the last several weeks, a rigorous, taxing regimen of preparation and rehearsal, apprehension and anticipation, for a monumental personal test with no precedent or known goal. He has, both knowingly and in ways he cannot name, compared his lists of possessions and desires, rewritten his definition of home and family, and measured his capacity for hope at every turn of his sewing machine, at every subway ride, at every sip of coffee or forkful of food. It has been weeks since he has known a moment free of the question of how he might measure up.
His diary entries have reflected the effects of this exhausting, attenuated state. Perhaps, like a boxer training for a bout, he finds himself less willing to speak or waste energy on anything so impractical as speech. Then again, perhaps he has wanted to speak but could not. Perhaps his father's death left a cavernous hole inside him, so dark and frightening that he had to keep it tightly sealed, and so the echoes of his thoughts and doubts and questions have remained trapped inside, crisscrossing, amplifying, canceling until they became an incomprehensible but unavoidable thrum.
Finally, though, Yom Kippur arrives, and Papa is at last allowed to see what happens when he ends his long wait, cracks open the seal, allows himself to mourn openly. The effect is instantly noticeable: He fills a page of his diary to its edges, waxes romantic in a way he has not for months, portrays a lovely image of a city cloaked in reverence, a neighborhood filled with cathartic cries, a moment free of practical cares. He could not have asked for more than this perfectly wistful moment, this perfectly Jewish moment in which pain and hope bind themselves together in a prayer for better times.
For the first time in months, Papa is himself again.