[If you want a quick Yom Tov dvar torah, please go here for my YU/CJF Sukkot To Go article.]
Yom Kippur as a private citizen was wonderful for me, and a real change from Yom Kippur in the rabbinate.
The workload wasn’t all that different – I spoke after Kol Nidrei, leined in the morning, taught a class through the post-musaf break and leined maftir Yonah. But there were three major differences:
• I sat off to the side, out of the public eye;
• I didn’t need to think about Succot preparations;
• I wasn’t the one responsible to make sure davening ran smoothly.
That last one is the key; I was not responsible.
This shedding of responsibility has been the greatest change for me, during Yom Tov. I’m still getting used to it. We flew down to Atlanta, to my in-laws, yesterday, and Gd-willing we will be here through Simchat Torah. It’s very odd, being able to just go somewhere just before Yom Tov, not be responsible for the succah (shul or personal), or for arranging lulav/etrog distribution, or for shiurim and derashot and succah hops and hoshanos and minyan times and hakafos and all the rest.
To be frank, this irresponsibility feels very unJewish.
It feels unJewish because it takes away the Yom Tov preparations that would ordinarily force me into a Yom Tov frame of mind, reviewing halachos and thinking about davening and learning the classic passages of chumash and gemara that deal with the Yom Tov. תשבו כעין תדורו, לולב צריך איגוד, שמחת בית השואבה, תפלת גשם… all of these ordinarily inhabit my mind from the week before Rosh HaShanah, but now I’m rushing to catch up and I feel very unSuccosish.
And it also feels unJewish because I can’t shake the feeling that this is not the way a Jew is meant to live, in terms of communal responsibility and in terms of personal responsibility. It’s great to parachute in and just enjoy Tom Tov … but it’s not right.
A Jew is supposed to build a Succah.
A Jew is supposed to arrange Lulav and Etrog personally.
A Jew is supposed to cook and clean and do the laundry and get the home ready.
A Jew is supposed to volunteer for community responsibility.
So I feel somewhat unsettled, sitting here blogging and taking care of work on-line and preparing post-Yom Tov shiurim/programs instead of running around town inspecting succot and calling people to pick up their lulavim and worrying about whether the schach will stay down on my succah over yom tov and shopping for last-minute items.
Gd-willing, we are going to my family for Pesach, as our second part of this year’s Yom Tov Jaunt experiments. Maybe we’ll find a way to do that one differently, though, to enable me to feel more “a part of it.” More responsible.