Crap I Think of While Mowing the Lawn – #22


(other than This Lawn Looks Like Crap)



Interesting, if not always deep, thoughts often pop into my head while I’m doing battle with my lawn. And yes, I do battle with a non-gas, non-electric, old-fashioned push mower. An actual reel mower. And my mind tends to think of some semi-interesting crap while I push along.

Welcome to Volume 22 of Crap I Think of While Mowing the Lawn.



They tell me today is October 6, 2014. There are, apparently, 80 more shopping days till Christmas. For those interested, there are 71 more days—shopping and otherwise—till Chanukah. And not to bury my lead:

There are now 351 eating and sinning days until the next Yom Kippur. Really?

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur just passed, with the salient requirement being that one (if an adult, and well enough to do so) must not eat or drink between sundown to sundown on that day. This year, it started on the evening of October 3, and next year, the holiday starts on the evening of September 22. For those concerned, the date is always the same on the Jewish calendar. (And yes, we Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the world’s population, and less than 0.2 % of the Jewish population truly understands our calendar.)

On to more important things. Along with refraining from eating and drinking during those difficult 24-plus hours, the mood of Yom Kippur is solemn, if not somber. The holiday is the culmination of 10 days of self-reflection, as we offer forgiveness to others, pray communally to God for forgiveness of the sins of humankind, and ask that we, and those we love, be inscribed in the Book of Good Life. Here’s one musical take on this.

Yom Kippur is the chance to start with a clean slate, and to find ways to renew and improve ourselves for the coming year. Some years, I receive and act upon this message; in other years, I kind of dawdle through the day, and think mostly about the coming joy of breaking the fast with a substantial dinner. This year, which by my calculation was the 44th time that I have fasted (yes, I started in the womb), was kind of an in-between experience.

Let history, and this blog, record that on Friday night, I stopped eating at about 6:45 pm, but instead of going to the evening (Kol Nidre) service, spent my time watching the Major League Baseball playoffs. Yes, the teams that I was rooting for all managed to lose that evening…strike one!

Without any stomach gurgling, but without much sleep (maybe, one year, I’ll actually start with a good night’s sleep), I made it to the morning service with my wife, after we dropped off Benny in the first-grade classroom, which is kind of an educational holding cell most years. The service being fairly brief as these things go, I returned home with almost eight more hours of fasting to endure.

Yet, the meaning of the holiday managed to hit me as the day went on, as it often does. I returned to my synagogue for a spirited, engaging, educational discussion, and then abandoned my plans to return home for more sports-watching, and a possible nap, in favor of continuing the discussion with a few other guys, and then being persuaded (perhaps, by my better angels) to return to the sanctuary for the concluding service.

There have been years when I truly feel the holiday, and when my system, really feels cleansed. My belly is empty (-er) at those moments, and my often shallow breaths now almost reach my feet. That didn’t happen this year, although by Yom Kippur’s conclusion, I did feel some pangs of hunger (mixed with a little guilt and humility). I also felt a little bit of the urgency of using my time a little more wisely to truly be a better all-around person in the coming year(s).

Of course, there is no imperative to start eating everything on sight once Yom Kippur concludes, as there is certainly no such imperative to sin while we can. Don’t worry: We will all commit our fair share of mistakes, by commission and omission, inadvertently, and while this troubles me to write this, intentionally.

In totality, this was a good Yom Kippur, made not only more tolerable but much sweeter by the guiding presence of family, friends and community. I am fortunate that, while my life could be richer and I can be (should be?!) well, richer, I am also surrounded by a great many blessings, and I have the opportunity to provide many blessings to others. In truth, while I hardly live extravagantly, even on Yom Kippur, I never have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. Selfishly, I would like it to come sooner, and 24 hours can be a long time between bites (or shovels full) for a big eater like me, but unlike millions of people around the world, I never have to worry about getting enough sustenance.

The spirit of the holiday was made more meaningful by a host of prayers from the morning and afternoon services, and a paragraph or two from the afternoon/concluding service—from a booklet my synagogue (Mkor Shalom) provides for congregants—really helped to drive a point or two home.

Let me share an excerpt from a short reading titled, “If You Had the Choice”, which itself was culled from Gates of Repentance, from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Got all that?

We shall not fear the summons of death; we shall remember those who have gone before us, and those who will come after us…Let us treasure the time we have, and resolve to use it well, counting each moment precious – a chance to apprehend some truth, to experience some beauty, to conquer some evil, to relieve some suffering, to love and be loved, to achieve something of lasting worth…Help us then to fulfill the promise that is in each of us, and to conduct ourselves that, generations hence, it will be true to say of us: The world is better because, for a brief space, they lived in it.”

This is a very powerful “read” for me, even on a full, if not a glutton’s, stomach. And with a full belly, and a full heart and a renewed spirit, (and no matter who you pray to, or even if you pray), I wish you and all humankind a year, and life, of self-awareness and awareness to both the beauty and the challenges of this world. May we all have so many of these precious moments and continually inspire others to do the same.

And let us not wait another 351 days to reflect, and act, on the messages that Yom Kippur brings to us each year.




Mower and Statesman

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