May You Be Sealed: Yom Kippur


This is a reprint of the post I did last year — while the events are now a year old, the basic ideas in this post haven’t changed one bit. And I love me some Joley… hope you all are sealed for a wonderful, wonderful year!

How It’s New York:  Today I got a text from Kelly Glover, an African-American friend I used to work with at Law &Order, wishing me the best for the holiday.  In New York, if you’re alert, you’re aware of the major Jewish holidays.  There will be little PSAs on local news.  Having lived loads of other places, I find that incredibly comforting.

How It’s Irish:  On Rosh Hashana, our new synagogue president Jonathan Engel, a professor, told a story of an Irish colleague who asked him what to say on the holidays, and how the colleague learned the phrase and came in and said in a lilt, “G’mar hatima Tovah,” putting the accent on the middle syllable, which made us all laugh.  In a nice way.  I find many of my Irish friends absolutely fascinated by Jewishness.  Séamus Begley said “Jews are quare hawks,” to me at 11th Street Bar last year (Pauline Turley explained what it means– not odd, but rare).  And of course, the Irish know about guilt, too.

 “G’Mar Hatima Tovah”  means, may you be sealed for a good year, in the Book of Life.  The Book has been open since Rosha Hashana (New Year’s) Ten days ago.  We had ten days to reflect, repent, atone, and apologize.  Tomorrow night it closes, with some last blows of the shofar (Ram’s horn).  In the meantime, we won’t be eating or drinking.

Kol Nidre means “all vows.”  All vows are absolved tonight, but it doesn’t mean vows to banks– I’l lstill have credit card debt tomorrow– but vows made to G-d.  We do this communally, and in that sense it’s different from a Catholic confessional.  We read aloud all the sins and beat our breasts (I kind of like the little thump myself).  My mother’s favorite has always been the one that translates into “we have been stiff-necked.”

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year, the Day of Atonement, and even people who aren’t observant at all generally won’t work on this day.  Sandy Koufax famously did not pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series.  And then there’s the Jazz Singer, in which Al Jolson, a Cantor’s son who wants to be a jazz singer, rushes home for Kol Nidre when his dad can’t lead the service.  Hi sings Kol Nidre while his father listens on his deathbed.

It’s pure schmaltz.

And very Irish.  “Danny Boy, anyone?”

So, in honor of the holiday, I will not be posting tonight or tomorrow until after sundown.  I will not check email or my phone. 

See you later, and may you be sealed for a good year.

About the Author