Sunday, September 19, 2010

Making my bed

Children often argue with their parents about chores. I was no exception. Making my bed was a particular sticking issue. My father kept telling me I would be more comfortable sleeping in a freshly made bed. My own experience proved otherwise - I was perfectly content sleeping in a bed with mussed covers. There had to be more to this bad-making thing. Turns out, most people appreciate the aesthetics of a made bed. It's good for socializing to have visible parts of your house look nice - making the bed is for the community, not the individual.

I've been thinking about that while attending services for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The idea behind the holiday is for people to reflect on how they can be better, and lay out an ethical plan for the year. Sounds nice.

But... it doesn't seem to work. People who attend Yom Kippur services (or comparable practices in other religions, such as Catholic confession) don't seem to have any higher standards than people who are religiously apathetic. I don't see any different behavior in myself now compared to my religious-service-free college days.

So, if the purported effect of making us better people doesn't pan out, why do we come to these services? My theory: the same reason we go to weekly services. Not for ourselves, but for the community. Those who pray together stay together and all that.

I like the community at my synagogue. It provides me with study opportunities, opportunities to give back to my local community, and social interaction with a wide cross-section of people. I'm glad we have events such as Yom Kippur that keep us together as a group.

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