Dave Matthews jammin with Rabbi Tachman (right, with white beard)
Not since Sandy Koufax agonized over whether or not to pitch the World Series, has a choice this big been put before the Jewish people. Yom Kippur 5771: Should a Jew go to synagogue or to the Dave Matthews Band concert at Wrigley Field?
Ah! So much to say and I don’t want to two-step around the issue. First of all, there is no rhyme or reason why they had to plan a concert that I wanted to go to on Yom Kippur. The grace is gone—concert organizers would have to be under the table dreaming and fool(s) to think that holding a second night concert at a time when I could be eating big eyed fish (and bagels) at a break-the-fast, is a viable solution. It’s a boys dream that all comes down to nothing.
Of course, it’s a typical situation in these typical times; too many choices, yeah. Funny the way it is, but it is not easy to be a Jew today. And though you may wonder why you are different, why you are this way and if you could be anyone other than you, remember two things: You are who you are and who you are (most likely if you are reading this) is a Jew.
Therefore, on this day, set before you is a choice…
Spend Kol Nidre with DMB, a rock god, the author of some amazing songs, or spend Yom Kippur evening with GOD; The ROCK, and The AUTHOR of EVERYTHING.
Spend Yom Kippur singing along with a band that has had some hits over the last decade or sing along with tunes that have been popular for thousands of years.
Sure, DMB has received some impressive awards in the past like a Grammy and the prestigious NAACP Chairman’s Award. But really, what is this compared to The ETERNAL, who for countless generations has received daily praise from millions upon millions of people? Can one really put the two side by side? It’s as ridiculous as a tripping billy or the proudest monkey.
Still can’t see the light? Could my personal bias be any clearer?
Dvar Acher—a second approach, DMB VS.YK lyrics:
First, Dave Matthews on Forgiveness:
If I've gone overboard
Then I'm begging you
To forgive me
Yom Kippur on Forgiveness:
When we say: Al Chet, we specify our mistakes in a long list, we say the words together as a community and we pledge to take action to fix those mistakes. At the conclusion of our prayer we say:
For all these sins, O God of mercy, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement!
Does DMB do this? Does he specify his mistakes? No. We don’t even know for what he is asking forgiveness! Is it for dumping raw sewage into our otherwise pristine Chicago River? Is it for planning two amazing concerts on nights when I can’t attend? Who knows? Either way, I am yet to hear his personal apology to me, because I would have gone to Wrigley for sure, and yes, on occasion, I kayak in that river.
One more comparison—What do DMB and YK say about living every moment to the fullest?
I can't believe that we would
Lie in our graves
Wondering if we had
Spent our living days well
I can't believe that we would
Lie in our graves
Dreaming of things that we
Might have been
(from Lie in our Graves)
DMB asks us to value our lives by imaging we are already being dead; lying in our graves.
On Yom Kippur, we too are to imagine ourselves as lying in our graves. Or to put it more gently, we imagine ourselves as angels for the day. Like angels, we neither eat, drink, nor have sexual relations, and we refrain from wearing comfortable leather clothing. We imagine ourselves as angels, as no longer alive, so that we might reflect with a serious sense of urgency on the meaning of our lives so that we can get our priorities straight before it is too late. Sure, DMB hints at this idea in his song, but we do it better.
Anyway, I could go on and on. With more blog-space, I might try to find compromise in the space between, like suggesting that you attend a synagogue near Wrigley like Temple Sholom where on Yom Kippur you might hear distant Dave Matthews tunes accompanying Kol Nidre. Or that you choose the lesser of two evils—skipping break-the-fast to go to DMB after Yom Kippur, but don’t you think eating Wrigley hotdogs would be gross after fasting all day?
And yet, after all this, if you are still debating over going to DMB on Kol Nidre or skipping Yom Kippur altogether, consider these important words: I call Heaven and earth to witness you this day that I have set before you life or death, blessing or curse; choose life, therefore that you and your descendant may live! (Ha, ha—how’s that for a guilt trip! Sweet you rock and sweet you roll!)
And finally…as everybody tells you, you pay for what you get and though High Holy Days tickets can sometimes be a bit more expensive than a single Dave Matthews Band concert (but not by much), what you will hopefully get by going to synagogue is a chance to seek up, with a renewed sense of purpose, meaning, inspiration and direction. You will be partaking in a tradition thousands of years old, joining friends, family and community, and at the same time supporting institutions that transform so many lives for the better.
Truly this decision is so right, and the best of what’s around. I mean really, what would you say?