On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Jews read a poem known by its first two words in Hebrew, "Unetaneh Tokef," which translates to "let us cede power."
The begging and most vivid part of the poem begins: "On Rosh Hashana it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. Who shall live and who shall die? Who will become poor and who will become rich? Who will be calm and who will be tormented?"
I have come to find myself asking an additional question: Who will find love and companionship, and who will be left unloved and alone?
On Yom Kippur, one completes atonement for the wrongs of the past year. The day is so serious that one is forbidden from consuming food and drink. It is for that reason that I never expected to meet someone who became so important to me on Yom Kippur last year.
I was living in Irvine at the time, not far from UC Irvine, where I went to law school. I knew almost all of the young single Jewish adults in the community, so I was intrigued when I saw a face I did not recognize.
After talking to her before the service, I found out she was a new pediatric resident, and childhood friends with one of my UC Irvine friends. I remember her striking white skin and her thick, black-framed glasses that seemed to cover most of her face.
I wanted to get to know her more. Unfortunately, Yom Kippur is just about the worst possible day to mingle. To my dismay, she did not return for the daytime services.
I was disappointed, but I bumped into her a few months later at a Hanukkah party that I decided to attend last-minute. This time her glasses were off and I saw how beautiful her face was. Apparently she had a long-distance boyfriend when we first met, but she was now single.
We eventually went out on a date. I took her to see the Old Towne district in Orange. She had not seen much of California because of her intense residency. The small-town feel, with most likely the only roundabout in Southern California located in the town center, reminded her of the Ohio town she grew up in. We found that we could both relate to a feeling of exile.
For her it was not landing a residency in the Midwest closer to her family and ex-boyfriend. For me it was being far from the fast-paced city life of Los Angeles that I had hoped to experience as a young adult. I felt an instant connection with her. We went on more dates. I took the big step of giving her my USC sweatshirt. I remember telling her how unlikely that all of this came about from our encounter on Yom Kippur.
But one time she decided to cancel a date. Suddenly, it took her longer to reply to my texts, and when I finally asked what she wanted to do about our young relationship, she said she just did not have the time to date.
I remember my heart sinking. A couple months later I finally got a job up in L.A. I decided to sponsor a Shabbat dinner at the place I had gone for Yom Kippur services. I decided to invite her, and she came. We found time to talk alone.
She said she regretted her decision to end things early, and we wound up kissing. She promised we would see each other again. I had hoped we would experience life in Los Angeles together.
We texted and talked, but then the frequency of our messages subsided. I decided to take a gamble and wrote an email expressing all of the feeling I had for her. I told her how hopeful she made me about the world and that we could work out all of the obstacles keeping us apart if we had feelings for each other.
She never replied. I eventually talked to our mutual friend. He said she never even brought me up. That feeling of hope she had instilled in me transformed into hopelessness. I was living in L.A. but wishing I could be with her one more time in Orange.
The ending of our relationship felt random and unbearably confusing. My question on Yom Kippur about who will find love and who will be alone was answered.
One of the hardest things about Yom Kippur is reflecting on all of the disappointments of the past year: lost opportunities, unmet goals and hopes never becoming reality. But in this realization of the future being out of our hands, new beginnings inherently bring new hopes, and with that the hope of connecting with others.
In times of transition, I often look to what the sages of the past have said to make sense of moments in the present. One of my favorite quotes is from the Talmudic sage Rabbi Ishmael, who once said, "All beginnings are difficult."
But come to think of it, how could he really know what his words meant. He never had to date in the 21st century.
The author is a practicing lawyer in Los Angeles.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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