It recently occurred to me, in the midst of these glorious early fall days and soothing, lengthening nights, with Jupiter blazing in the night sky, that our ancestors celebrated Yom Kippur outside.
They gathered in the courtyards and by the gates of the Temple, in the streets and throughout the broad places of Jerusalem. The center of activity held forth behind a curtain in the Holy of Holies and on a tidy, if bloodied, table on the westward end of the Temple plaza.
The action for the most part was beyond view. The people were, when all is said and done, left on their own. They kept each other company. We can imagine what kept them occupied.
No doubt they chatted a bit; shared stories of the year past; imagined good things for the future; perhaps told jokes; napped; strolled around; grew anxious, grew bored; visited and watched the sun progress from morning to evening, trudging its steady, stubborn path across the Mediterranean sky.
More and more people I speak to these days are returning to this age-old practice. They are celebrating Yom Kippur outside. Some by a lake; some in the woods; some by a stream or in a meadow; or on a long garden path.
The world becomes their synagogue; a rock their pew; the heavens their ark. They can see the sun tracing the arc of their lives. They feel the pace and passage of time, where it speeds up and where it drags on, where it delights and where it tugs. They fill the earth and are filled by it. They are everything; and they are nothing. It is a day of audacious dreams and profound humility.
Two pockets, we have, with two notes in them. In one: “For me the world was created.” In the other, “I am but ashes and dust.”
We can feel the power of each in the great outdoors on Yom Kippur.
May this year bring you its full measure of blessings. And may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.