September 25, 2014

Reflection, Renewal, Rebirth

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This holiday encompasses the reflection of the year past, introspection of challenges overcome and desire for a sweet and resolved new year ahead. My personal relationship with Rosh Hashanah is very complex. It was on the eve of Rosh Hashanah 14 years ago that my father suffered a horrific accident and died 10 days later on Kol Nidre, the night before Yom Kippur. So while I bask in the beauty of the autumn trees, the promise of what is to come and the gratitude of what I have, there is a constant current of mourning.

After much stalling, I finally signed up for High Holiday tickets at the reconstructionist temple, Romemu, here on the UWS. Unfortunately, my tickets never arrived. With no tickets in hand, my options for honoring the holiday seemed limited. As the stars aligned, my close childhood friend Tanya (who also happens to be a cantor) clued me into the possibility of participating in the services via livestream. So this morning, after my husband went to work, and Sage was down for her morning nap, Shay and I listened to the previously recorded Erev Rosh Hashanah (“Rosh Hashanah eve”) services from the 92nd St Y. Since we were really enjoying the flavor and mood of the 92nd St service, we happily stayed tune for the morning service. By this time Sage was up and playing on the floor. We continued to listen until Tanya’s service was to start.

With the service playing in the background, Shay and I were deeply involved in a coloring project based on his latest obsession of firemen. As I sat there with crayon in hand, the sound of the rabbi’s voice would call my attention and I was thrust into listening to prayers that sent me back to a moment of sitting with my father in temple. I was 5 years old, bored and braiding the fringed end of his tallit. A minute or so later, my ear caught the melody of the piano and guitar, and I found myself gleefully singing along to the tunes of my childhood memories.

Needless to say, I was riding a roller coaster of emotion. But what made today’s observance of the holiday so special to me was, we celebrated in such a unique and personal way. I had the time and space to reflect and enjoy the holiday (in my pajamas!) while looking into the faces of my children and truly digesting these fleeting moments of their carefree childhood. Shay and I casually discussed the meaning of the holiday and talked about what we are thankful for. We even started preparing our “duet” of the Sh’hecheyanu for next week’s trip to Grandma’s house for Yom Kippur. My talk with my son reminded me to take the time to appreciate the blessings I have in my life. Even though my father’s absence from this holiday has an ever lasting scar, my heart was swollen with gratitude for the gift of two healthy children, the warmth and love of my husband, family and friends, and the satisfaction of having a fulfilling career. I hope in times of distress and sadness, I can recall this experience of contentment and joy.

My family is now coming full circle. In a matter of years, Shay and Sage will be sitting (possibly bored) between Joey and me during high holiday services as we start to create our own family rituals and memories.




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