In the traditional liturgy, the special character of each holiday is particularly conveyed by the piyyutim (hymns, liturgical poems) that are recited or chanted on that day. Most of these piyyutim have been omitted in Reform liturgies since the nineteenth century, out of a sense that their Hebrew diction is too arcane and their theology too medieval. Yet, some of these poems have routinely been retained in Reform High Holy Day prayer books, particularly for Yom Kippur.
I grew up going to services. A lot of services. I was adept at counting the ceiling tiles, reaching into the thousands as my grasp of numbers grew more sophisticated. The melodies became part of my life soundtrack; I hummed them as my mind wandered during the rabbi’s sermon.