As the hagim roll round again, we take time to assess what the High Holy Days mean to us. Do we enjoy/introspect/shudder/ none of the above? We wish all our readers, no matter what they believe, a very, very happy, healthy, peaceful and sane New Year.
Recently I had reason to revisit the fabulous Haikus for Jews – In the ice sculpture
reflected bar mitzvah guests
nosh on chopped liver.
And this: Yom Kippur – forgive
me, God, for the Mercedes
and all the lobsters.
I could relate. Not that I drive a Mercedes, or even eat lobster. But it’s that humor, that belonging, that walking into shul where the tunes never change – which make the hagim special for me. The continuity. Everyone cooking chicken soup. Everyone with a headache. All around the world.
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One year, with too many courses, I suggested my mom delete chopped liver from the menu. “Never!” she replied. “What’s a hag without chopped liver?” Furthermore, she instructed me to make it, in her memory, when she died... and so I have for 20 years.
If I’m to bare my soul, I’d have to admit that in the aftermath of too many of my most beloved people dying far too young, I’d had it with God. I couldn’t bear the “who is to live and who is to die” spiel; I wanted nothing to do with a deity who killed off his children. But years later I guess I’ve started to heal; now I view the words as just words. I sing along as if to a well-loved song; familiar, fabulous, fantasy. Just as it’s easy to belt out “We’re all going on a summer holiday” in winter, I can once again chant the somber words of the solemn days without mindfulness.
I know, now, that God has nothing to do with who lives or dies. It’s just the frame for family food, and loving, and gathering without cellphones. It’s continuity, even with the continuous ache for those missing from the table.Danit Shemesh:
The days of awe used to be scary for me. And, before they were scary, they meant nothing, just a sign that winter was coming and the closets needed to be changed. Oh, and New Year’s Eve came hard on the heels, with a new outfit to organize as well as the best party around.
Then, when I first became religious, I thought I was supposed to be scared, to view God as a sniper waiting for me to mess up. And I was always getting it wrong. I felt like an admonished child, and I hated it. My husband gels better than I do with the idea of cause and effect, punishment and divine justice. I suppose it’s a matter of personality. I relate to the “love piece” better than the “awe piece.” To God the father, rather than God the king.
With the passing of many years, this period became a giant to-do list: preparing the food and buying new clothes for nine children, whitening the house, and dusting off my soul. I carved out time to learn what teshuva means and to introspect, but that exercised a very different region in my brain, and I couldn’t always reconcile the two, the sublime and the mundane. Especially with so much laundry to get through, and so many menus to make.
Today the kitchen and the living room still taunt me, but I know they are mere means to the end. Sure, family dynamics are in full blast at this juncture of the year, for the good and for the yet-tobe good. We need to cope.
Where am I heading during these solemn days? To me. Teshuva means going back to me. The real me, the cherished me, the one God intended.Tzippi Shaked:
This past year I danced and laughed and cried. But somehow, this year, as the hagim approach, I especially feel the sting of pain in shul. (Remember the flood, the stabbings, the kite fires?)
I’m rendered mute at the mere thought of davening Yom Kippur alongside my neighbor who lost her son in a senseless accident overseas. I cringe to stand near another who lost her son to terrorism, and a mother grieving over the loss of her daughter who died tragically two days after her own engagement party. What about my friend, a few rows behind, diagnosed with cancer this month? And two other friends who lost their husbands?
It’s too much to absorb, even as I’m mindful of smahot
– my youngest daughter got married! Still, yamim noraim
[High Holy Days] highlight the weight of the packages we painstakingly unwrap at this time of year. And as we introspect, we know that the packages of others are often heavier. It’s like getting naked in front of co-workers; we politely avert our eyes even as we also disrobe.
It is not comfortable.
This year, while grateful for so much, I’m also feeling the pinch of being a Modern Orthodox woman within this society, a very visible thing to be at this point both with man and God.
The struggle to find interlocutors with whom to dialogue who have open ears, eyes, minds and hearts across religious and secular divides is undoubtedly one of Hashem’s [God’s] greatest struggles. I feel it, too!
Hashem, at this time of year I question the pain and uncertainty engulfing my shul, yishuv and country, even as I appreciate the gifts bestowed.
To view the whole package as a gift is my personal struggle.
I’m still into building bridges. I hope Hashem and the people of Israel are, too!
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