You Are Only Here

By Jessica Gross

Fall leaves blown in a heap against a low brick wall; an orange slant of early-evening sun; a slow, slow walk.

This is the image that comes to mind when I think of the High Holy Days of my childhood. In my memory, I am walking with my family on Yom Kippur, waiting out the waning hours of the fast. I couldn’t tell you where the brick wall was; all I know is its associations: the measured pace, the introspection, the sense of peace. It’s possible that I made up this wall entirely, as well as the walk that went along with it; but even if it’s an invention of my mind, that makes it no less of an emblem. More so, maybe.

Even then, I felt excessively swept up in life and in the whirling speed of my own thoughts. I grew up in a Reform synagogue and in a family that was not particularly religious. But even for us, the High Holy Days were a time of enforced slowness, communality, and separation from the manic minutiae of the everyday. Yom Kippur in particular, has always served this purpose for me: it is a day devoted not only to atonement and reflection, but also to curbing the mind’s ability to process at a normal speed.

The fast is like a wall: it’s a stop. Stop. For once, stop and be. You are only here.

About Jessica Gross

Jessica Gross is a new member of BJ, a writer, and a teacher.