t was no surprise that Shlomi, the rumored head of the local mafia, looked anxious as the Day of Atonement loomed. I spotted him an hour before the Yom Kippur fast began, brow furrowed, marching in circles around his front garden and I assumed his concern lay with how to make peace with the Capo Di Tutti Capi in the sky - but this was all pure conjecture. Far more certain was the fact that another neighbor, Chaim, had noticed me, and was now headed straight for the jugular. "Aaaal-an, Seth," he drawled in his Marlboro-accented lilt. "Leeee-sten - I need your help with something." Here we go, I sighed, wondering how many cigarettes he'd come to sting me for this time. But, in a major shift from his usual pleas for tobacco, Chaim had a far more heavyweight proposal to put to me. To cut a schnorrer's story short, he wanted me to line his wallet to the tune of a hundred shekels - "beeeecause I neeed to get food for the Chagim - which one eeees it, again?" Er, Yom Kippur, my friend - not the most opportune moment to use a food shortage as basis for cadging a ton. But I figured a note or two in his direction couldn't hurt my chances of getting a high score in my Kol Nidre checkup, so I gave in and coughed up. He coughed up too, but in a more literal sense, unfortunately. Having sorted out old Chaim, I was dressing for synagogue and agonizing over whether the restriction on leather shoes covered my Vuitton belt as well. A knock on the door diverted me from my dilemma - Lior Hayek, the upstairs neighbors' son, was clutching a foil-wrapped plate and grinning at me. "Here you go," he said, thrusting the dish at me. "My mom thought you'd like it." I accepted the offering graciously, all the while trying to keep my belt-less trousers from making their way southwards, and retreated back inside. This was bizarre: While I'm on pretty good terms with the entire Hayek clan, they've never once made food-based overtures towards me. Like Chaim earlier, their timing was a touch off, with a day of fasting only minutes away. No doubt they'll bring me a couple of hallot before Pessah too. When I peeled back the cover I was met with most of the internal organs of an unfortunate young calf. Reeling back in vegetarian-based shock, I headed off for synagogue with my friend, Ben - and 200,000 other like-minded souls. The streets totally devoid of traffic, white-clad pedestrians swarmed in the direction of the nearby prayer houses. We were off to Hebrew Union College to hear our former army buddy turned hazan-in-kittel mate Dave take center stage. This was my first appearance at a non-Orthodox synagogue, having grown up in a firmly Orthodox environment. The presence of a pianist, cellist and flautist at a service rendered the experience less like prayer and more like a night at the opera, but each to his own - as long as I don't have to endure it. But - as a loyal Dave groupie - of course I did. The whole service lasted two and a half hours, of which all but five minutes was devoted to the choir. No crowd participation, no silent prayer - just solos, duets, upbeat numbers, whispered chanting - all that was missing was a standing ovation at the end. At the end, having put on our sycophant's outfits and showered the choir with praise, we headed home. Or, at least, that was our intention. When we passed the park on our way home, out of nowhere, at least 1,500 people were gathered en masse the length and breadth of the street. It was see and be seen, and - for my sins - that's just what happened to me. As I tried to shuffle past with my head down, I was spotted time and again by countless people I'd rather not have seen on such a hungry occasion - boys I play football with, neighbors I throw rocks at, fascist swimmers I fight for lane privileges in the pool. Eventually Ben and I made our way through the swell, and I headed home to read. I read, I slept, I woke up to find the aroma of liver and heart had taken over my house completely. If ever there was a sign that I should hurry off to synagogue, this was it - a glutton for punishment, it was back for another day of La Traviata.

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

Think others should know about this? Please share