For those, not in the know, this means essentially, that I don't drag my tuchas to the synagogue or as we say, shul, any time of year except Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
I feel that since I manage to find my higher power in just about everything from a bubble bath to a cheese omelet, as long as I make it to shul for the opening of the books (Rosh Hashanah) and the closing of the books (Yom Kippur) I'll be passed on to the next grade.
I admit this might be a throwback to how I got through high school.
But this year is different.
After having spent some of Rosh Hashanah on ground zero watching an army chaplain blow the shofar, I knew that Yom Kippur would be intense, to say the least. Yom Kippur has always been, for me, a time of mourning.
What I had forgotten was that The Javitts Center, the giant glass and steel structure that Congregation Beth Simchat Torah holds its Yom Kippur services in, was also something else: the command center for the disaster.
When M.E. and I showed up in our little shul outfits, we were confronted with a barrage of state troopers and police. Most of the side streets leading into the center were blocked off by police barricades, and helicopters buzzed over head.
It truly felt as though we were at war.
I walked up to the armed guard, and he demanded to know what I wanted here.
"I'm here to go to … the synagogue??" I asked meekly.
"Down there!" he pointed as if to say, "and get away from here NOW!"
So we walked to the other half of the center, feeling something far beyond strange.
As we entered, we passed a dozen state troopers standing guard and had to walk through a security check, where M.E.'s bag was inspected.
What could be more dangerous two weeks after the demise of The Towers? A room full of thousands of Jews praying. But to combine that with the fact that this room was nestled in the same building that housed the command center was what you might call a double whammy.
In past years, Yom Kippur services for this synagogue, founded as a haven for the gay and lesbian community, was always held upstairs against a wall of glass through which you could see the sun setting as services neared a close, or an opening.
But this year, we were ushered to a vast, curtained space on the main floor. I assumed it was to protect us from whatever flying thing might want to attack us through the glass, but when we walked in, I understood the real reason; there were far too many people.
These services always draw a crowd of about 3,000, but this looked closer to 4,000, maybe more.
Every imaginable kind of person seemed to be there: black men in yarmulkes, lesbian mothers with Asian babies, elderly husbands escorting their elderly wives, downtown boys in shaved heads and facial piercings, clearly devout Jews wearing tallis and their own embroidered yarmulkes … and us.
M.E. didn't read Hebrew (something about being Cuban, I should think), but she kept along with the English and seemed to be loving it.
"It's so beautiful!" She would whisper whenever the cantors led the choir in another song.
She was right.
It wasn't until the end of services when the rabbi's sermon came that the real magnitude of what we were all feeling hit me.
Rabbi Sharon (I never remember her last name, but trust me it sounds very Jewish) is my first female rabbi, and I truly do think she's fabulous. I must admit, however, I have been known to sneak out before her sermon, because, well, what can I say? I have the attention span of a 3-year-old.
But not this night.
She said, "When services began, I told you that this was our largest Yom Kippur attendance ever, at least 4,000 people, but since then, we have added chairs. There are now 6,000 people here tonight!"
She had the front row stand up to look out at us in the back, had the side rows stand up to look into the center, had us in the back row stand up to look toward the front, and only when the full magnitude of how many of us were standing in this place hit us, did she say exactly what were all thinking.
"This is something close to the amount of people missing in The World Trade Center."
I looked around at all of us. We were young. We were old. We were beautiful. We were ugly. We were fat. We were thin. We were black, white, Asian, Latin, women, men. We were 6,000 souls standing together as surely as 6,000-plus souls had died together.
Many of us started to cry. I was one of them.
She went on in her speech trying to find the words to help make sense of this unfathomable tragedy and told us that our broken hearts were part of who we are now.
Those words were the only thing I seemed to remember later on that night.
Our broken hearts are part of who we are now.
I have been broken. We all have.
I know that the person I used to be died when I watched the towers crumble from my roof.
Since then, I walk too fast, talk too fast, don't sleep, eat without chewing, run to the gym and then want to leave as soon as I get there. Answer the phone and then need to hang up after five minutes. I feel as though I've had 10 Cuban coffees every day since September 11th. At night, my heart pounds against my chest every time a car beeps or my neighbors pounce on the floorboards.
I have been, like many of us, searching for where to put myself, now that the me I have been is so utterly and completely changed.
We were broken and now must take the broken bits of who we were and what we saw and incorporate them into who we are and what we will be.
I'm not a religious woman, but I pray that who I become will be better than what I have been. I wish that for us all, because clearly what we have been was not good enough to stop this from happening.