I read this article by Etgar Keret and felt more comforted by its lack of comfort than anything else I’ve read lately. Keret doesn’t provide me with a ‘Moral of the Story’ for Yom Kippur, but just a story that points to our inconsolable imperfectness, and the perfection of our vulnerability. I don’t like moralising, didactic points from personal narratives, or linking those holidays which mean so much to Jews around the world with some grand gesture about the world. I like something that reminds me of how weird we all are – we bizarre human beings and all the stupid but lovely things we do.
It’s customary to ask for forgiveness on Yom Kippur, to atone for any hurt you may have caused. I would ideally like to do so too. At the same time, I know this gesture, when ritualised, can become cliché. In order to remind me how it’s not cliché, how it’s profound and essential, Keret also reminds me that as he asks for forgiveness, he prepares to lie. I like that:
“I remember going home from school on that day. I rode my bike, the pedals turned easily, the road felt smooth, and even the uphill parts felt like they were downhill. I never saw her again, but since then, whenever I have a strong urge not to tell the truth, I think of her outside her high-school classroom, smiling broadly, her face full of pimples, saying she accepted my apology. Then I take a deep breath, and lie.”
Image credit: Alone by Emilio Longoni.