Yom Kippur I have come to find an increasingly uplifting experience. The melodies and singing in my synagogue lift me like eagle’s wings. I look forward each year to exploring the piyyutim and various sections of the liturgy in greater depth; and for those moments when I may feel less inspired, I bring a book to help me focus on an important message.
When I asked my teenage daughter how her Yom Kippur went, she replied with one word (as she often does): “Boring.” She doesn’t find the fasting so hard, but the tefillot, despite 9 years of day school, still don’t speak to her. For the most part, though, she puts in the effort; I admire that she stands longer than everyone else as she makes her way through the holiday Amidot.
My first reactions to her word are not charitable. Doesn’t she love the melodies? How could she feel bored sitting next to one of her BFFs all day? And worse: What have I been sending her to day school all these years for??
Then I think back to my own childhood and the struggles I felt sitting in shul for so long. I feel sympathy and hope that, as long as she persists in showing up and engaging with the tefillot, something will resonate for her.
These thoughts come to mind as I saw a chain about the importance of boredom in LinkedIn.
Boredom is a symptom of the necessary struggle that we all have with being alone. It’s important that every person learn how to feel comfortable with themselves during times when there is nothing given for them to do. A wonderful book, Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind by Patricia Meyer Spacks, claims that boredom is a phenomenon created in the industrial age (late 18th C), with the “cure” of mass reading (later shopping). Previously, boredom was considered a sin, a spiritual malady. With the stimulation of social media and other media, today’s children have a daunting array of weapons with which to fight off boredom–and hence more difficulty wrestling with boredom when it inevitably comes.
As we enter the joyous season of Sukkot, may we succeed in helping our students find the holidays meaningful and inspiring–and accept the struggles of working through the times when they are not.