A Long Day’s Journey into Night

By Harriet Goren

For much of my life, the afternoon of Yom Kippur was a time to burrow into the couch and count the minutes until dinner. But after I came to BJ, I discovered in those few hours a most intense and meaningful part of the day.

At all other services, we reach the Torah reading after a peaceful ascent through psalms and prayers. We have time to take a deep breath and prepare for the pageantry and complexity that follows.At Minha on Yom Kippur, however, we dispense with those preliminaries. Whether we’ve returned to services after a nap or meditation, or just hanging out, the holy day—like the Senate during a summer break—despite having paused, is still in session. So now there’s no warm-up. The Ark opens—“Vayehi binsoa ha’aron vayomer Moshe!”—and like metal filings to a magnet we rush to the scrolls, cradled in tired arms as they make their way around the sanctuary.

When I’ve had the privilege of helping to lead Minha as a hazzanit, this sudden moment is also when I start to sing. I’m never quite sure what will come out: will I sound exhausted and tentative, betraying questions not yet resolved? Or strong, reflecting answers just discovered? It’s usually a combination, as I find my bearings. That abrupt initiation of prayer and voice, even when I don’t feel ready for either—and then discovering I’m just fine, no matter what—always seems like a metaphor for the year to come. Minha may be the beginning of the conclusion of Yom Kippur, but it’s also the first step of the unexpected journey that follows.

About Harriet Goren

Harriet has been a BJ member since since 1999. She’s a frequent Torah reader, a graphic designer and Judaica artist, and is also BJ’s Art Director.