If we have to put up with the very formal style of service with the organ, choir and show-offy operatic cantors, the Great Synagogue carried it off well. The cantors are good, and they were really on form. And they managed to keep the service grounded enough that it felt like a service, not a concert performance. Last night was excessively crowded and hot and I was feeling sick anyway, today was a lot better just from a physical point of view.
The liturgy is from a prayer book that is a few decades old and is very old-school Reform, absolutely cut to the bone. I can live without the piyyutim, the religious poetry, but I'm not so crazy about cutting all the narrative from the Avodah service (the bit that reenacts the Temple sacrifice) and leaving only three repetitions of "Then the High Priest made a confession and pronounced the Divine Name". And I'm definitely not impressed with cutting the remembrance of martyrs altogether. They didn't really replace the removed bits with anything more modern / relevant / inspirational. But the rabbi did read a really lovely piece about the gates of life, daring to open gates to new experiences, accepting that some gates are closed forever, and taking seriously the Prophetic idea about the point of a fast being committing ourselves to feeding the hungry.
But despite the quibbles and despite not feeling physically well, it did work as a whole. The best way I can describe it is a sense of descent, somehow going down into a dark place, a symbolic death if you like, and emerging again lighter. Definitely not my most intellectually engaged year, but that's ok. I'm glad I got to sit with ploni_bat_ploni; she's an inspiration in her visible emotional and spiritual commitment. And she kindly invited me to nap at her place during the break in the afternoon.
After the service we went to the rabbi's to break the fast. That was really pleasant; the rabbi and his wife kept things sensibly informal, and it was a nice way to wind down without being abruptly thrown into normality.
I'd better sleep now or I'll continue to be a wreck tomorrow. I hope everyone who fasted today had a nicer time of it than I did, and that everyone who kept the festival gets all sorts of good conclusions and good writing and all that.
Just to add some content that's not babbling about religion, people should go and read lavendersparkle's essay about feminism and abortion. I like what she has to say, even though I'm not a big fan of claiming that stuff is
caused by patriarchy. Am I crazy enough to expand my own thoughts on such a contentious topic? Not sure; I'll decide after I've had some sleep.