I've now been through my first High Holy Days service.
Mostly, I thought it was long. Long and crowded and tiring.
Part of the issue is that I already find Jewish worship services kind of tiring because I'm trying to grasp the Hebrew while following the service as best I can. After about half an hour, I kind of give up and just let myself be carried along through the rest of the service. This is a fine thing in an hour-long service -- it can actually be kind of relaxing -- but not so much in a three-hour service.
Plus, there's a special prayer book for the Holy Days, and it has no transliteration for the Hebrew! And there are special songs for Rosh Hashanah, but the Reform Judaism prayer books have only lyrics but no musical notes for songs, which means that I was even more than usually out of step with the music.
All in all, I was in over my head. But the good news is that I stayed relaxed and just went with it all. As I looked around, it was clear that I was hardly the only one in this situation, and it was after all my very first Rosh Hashanah service, so I had no expectations for myself. When I got bored, I kept myself busy picking out the Hebrew letters. So it was all fine. But after I got home and had lunch, I did crawl into bed and napped for over two hours, so I think the experience was more exhausting than I realized in the moment.
I have some other thoughts on the Days of Awe that I'll blog about later, but the one other thing to say here is that I had been slightly alarmed by the letter that accompanied my Holy Days tickets. There were some notes about security and said that people should leave all coats and bags in their car and that we needed to be prepared to show picture IDs. This got me thinking about antisemitism and how Holy Days services would be good targets for hatred. But then when I showed up this morning, it was all quite relaxed. It occurred to me afterward that the synagogue is in probably the most Jewish neighborhood in all of Adventure City, so it's always a potential target for antisemitism, and probably someone intent on hurting Jews could do so any day in that neighborhood. Horrible to think about, but necessary to think about as well.
Anyway, I didn't mean to end on that grim note. It wasn't at all a grim day, although it also wasn't inspirational. More thoughts on that in my next blog post. In the meantime, l'shanah tovah!