One of the things I miss about Jerusalem is the sense of living in a land where even the paganism is Jewish. What do I mean by paganism? I mean an entirely un-mediated relationship with the cosmos, one that does not require the intercession of a Temple sacrifice, let alone negotiating a maze of halakhic guidelines. Visit Jerusalem on a Friday afternoon and you can feel the sheer energy of the entire city buzzing as people rush about their preparations for Sabbath. I’m not talking about haredim, or Modern Orthodox, or secular—I’m talking about Jews, period, everybody running around as the sun starts to tip. The same goes for those who indulge in what seem to me the rather dubious outskirts of a monotheistic faith – going to lie on the graves of “righteous ones” or holding celebrations of the talmudic rabbi Shimon bar Yohai at Mount Meron: this, too, is for me the pagan underbelly of the country, and this, too, is Jewish in Israel.
Pagan Rosh Hashanah
How a central prayer of the New Year liturgy reveals the day’s true spirit of awe and fear.