By Eytan Kobre
I suppose I shouldn’t expect any invitations to one of those parties featuring the local kosher deli’s all-you-can-eat Super Sunday special (where they’ve at least got the right idea about what a real hero is).
It is Sunday, but not just any Sunday morn – it is the dawn of the Hallowed Day. America a secular land? Hah! Silly Hitchens, Dawkins, and fellow New Atheists – sacred devotion is so very much alive in America.
There are, of course, those who are deeply faithful throughout the year, and perform the Ritual of the Watching and all the ancient rites attendant thereto each Sunday, in Temples throughout the land. The most pious of these even make the Pilgrimage to the Sanctum Sanctorum itself in which that day’s Confrontation will take place, partaking first, of course, of the sacred parking lot Feast. But on this Hallowed Day, we are all, men, women and children, part of – to coin a phrase – a “kingdom of priests, a holy nation.”
Rise, then, with alacrity, and tend to what chores need be done, for the afternoon cometh speedily, when all thine work need already be complete. And there is much to be done in anticipation of the Watching.
Much of the beloved work has been done in advance, of course, and pity those foolish souls who’ve waited until the Hallowed Day to prepare; do they not know for what it is we are on this earth, that in important matters we dare not tarry, but plan well ahead of time?
There is, first, the Convening of the Faithful, the summoning by personal invitation of one’s kith and kin, to gather at the designated Temple, at the appointed time, and, to perform, as one, the Watching. Most often, each group consists of those who belong to the same Sect, who venerate the same Saints and who have studied in depth the most intimate details of these men, their great acts and truly wondrous deeds, for the Faithful do not well suffer infidels in their midst.
Next, there is the Preparation of the Sacraments, those sacrosanct foods and beverages that will be ritually consumed during the Watching. Most often, these portions of meat and fowl and strong drink are prepared by others in bulk for the Faithful of each Temple, and delivered thereto, with great attention paid to ensure each worshipper receives a ritually sufficient portion of the holies to consume and imbibe.
And of course, the host (whose patron god is, presumably, the Lord of Hosts) must see to it that his Temple is in proper condition for the Watching, with ample seating and, of course, an appropriate Shrine, before which to kneel as one performs the Watching and, if things go not well, supplicate and remonstrate.
There are also additional rituals in which to engage, each man according to his faith and temperament. Some don the hallowed Vestments of their particular Sect, so as to announce without fear, indeed, with pride, to all the world: “Behold, I am faithful to my chosen Saints and will remain thusly loyal to them come what may.” Others adorn the Temple, the walls and doorposts thereof, with a variety of cherished symbols and depictions of their heroic leaders.
Thankfully, most of the Faithful perform the Watching at a Shrine in the very center of their homes, so that their offspring might thereby learn what is truly important and to what they might devote their hearts, minds, and resources all the days of their lives.
A lesser number, however, flock to special communal Temples wherein Congregations of the Faithful gather to worship at a common, huge Shrine. There, large amounts of intoxicating drink flow freely, the better to rejoice in the good fortunes of their sect’s anointed ones or, Heaven forfend, to drown their sorrow at the descent of their revered Saints to ignominy. Woe, woe to those who perform their devotions outside the home, caring not enough to raise their progeny to appreciate life’s precious meaning.
Finally, the hour of the Watching draweth near.
First, however, the faithful gather to watch and listen as Elders of the Faith speak to them from the site of the Sanctum Sanctorum itself about the upcoming Confrontation of Faith to take place therein and give their views based on their many years of study and contemplation of prior Confrontations. Every last detail of the Confrontation and the Saints of the respective Sects who will vie for greatness therein is dissected and studied closely, pondered and argued over by the assembled in each Temple, as it is stated: For it is our lives and the length of our days.
And then, suddenly, as wintery afternoon sunlight turns to dusk, the Ritual of the Watching is upon us.
It will last for several hours, holding tens of millions of the Faithful in its mesmerizing thrall. As one traverses the length and breadth of this great land, two types of fearsome sounds are to be heard rising up from countless Temples dotting the landscape.
Some are great and ferocious cries of exultation and oaths of undying allegiance to and profound pride in one’s chosen Sect and its towering Saints. Others are the gnashing of teeth, rending of garments and wailing and bemoaning of one’s fate and that of one’s beloved Sect, whose Saints have suffered so in expiation of their sins.
Salvation for some, suffering for others, a deeply meaningful time for all.
This article first appeared in Mishpacha Magazine and is republished here with permission.