observances observed

Stephen H Stein
4 min readOct 7, 2022

i fast, i repent
that is, i don’t eat
and i think
of my transgressions
and what to do better
what i can do better
i flip through the prayerbook
and find passages i never noticed before
i look around
at my community
the people
specifically the backs of their heads
their hair
suits, dresses
shoes
the old, young
how do people stay so trim
well, not that guy over there, and not me
oh, right, focus
be kind, disciplined
set a good example for your children
listen, really listen
these songs, these prayers
take me back
i think of tifereth israel synagogue in des moines
where i used to go as a kid
that old part with the creaky stairs
the balcony in back
the flapan girls in front
the choir you heard but couldn’t see
dr routman’s voice
the creamy brown wood of the pughs
the hebrew words i somehow know,
melodies i can’t forget
i think of my mother who made us go
i think of my mother who learned the haftarah so she could do it every year
and my brother who learned it this year to honor her
i think of my mother
i think of my mother
i think of my mother who by cancer was not inscribed last year
i think of my sister who remains… hurt and angry
i think of my own exhaustion from everything
my lack of discipline
my laziness
my nothingness
i think how i might tackle a gunman
i listen to the violin which seems fake
because it’s so extraordinary
effortless and pure
oh, and when they play the leonard cohen song
are you kidding me
seriously, are you kidding me
is someone recording this
because OMG
beautiful, so beautiful
sublime
side note: how proud leonard’s parents must be
their son with a song in a prayerbook
songs are all prayers, though, aren’t they
maybe not all about that bass
but who by fire, clearly
and hallelujah, probably, by default
i digress
the rabbi has a great sense of humor
he’s funny, and sincere
purposeful
he carries the congregation in his breast pocket
both rabbis
they trade lines now
did they always
did the cantor always deliver sermons
cause she’s killing it
her delivery is practiced, nuanced
what did she say
time is a thread
and we all weave the fabric of our own lives
i wish my dad had more time
i wish i had more time
time
time
time
i have to set a meeting with the dj people
and don’t we have to taste things at the hotel soon
my god i have to make a video
my back hurts
this chair sucks
why are we crammed so tight
oh right, it’s me
well, i’m fasting so…

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