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Sep 26 2011

My Rosh Hashanah Standstill

By at 1:54 pm

Nothing marks the passage of time like the fall holidays.

I can’t believe that my first child is almost 5-years-old and that the baby that was in my tummy this time last year is now walking around my living room.

It really does go by too fast.  From Rosh Hashanah to Rosh Hashanah, my children are growing and changing, becoming ever more engaged with their world and their religion.

But I, oddly, stand still.

I began noticing sometime this year that my spiritual development has literally stalled. From ages 14-29 I, too, was growing, changing, learning, deepening my commitment to and knowledge of my tradition.

And then I had my first child, and it all came screeching to a halt.

Each Rosh Hashanah I find myself working on the same things, having made no progress from year to year. All of my goals of learning and teaching more torah, getting to more synagogue, doing more mitzvot, saying more blessings, amount to nothing, lost in a sea of working mother I-just-need-to-get-through-this-week-this-month-this-year madness.

When my older boy was just 1 year old, I attended a panel on prayer at a Limmud conference. During the Q& A I asked: I have a young child, and as he gets more mobile I find that it’s very difficult to pray at synagogue, to engage spiritually. What can I do?

Wait a few years, the women-of-a-certain-age said. This stage of your life is shorter than you can imagine. Soon you’ll be missing those days, just like we do.

The answer enraged me then, and it still does now.  Shouldn’t  growth be possible at every stage?

To be fair, my children are only one obstacle—my own inertia is just as much to blame. I say that I want to grow as a Jew, but when I have a rare quiet moment I inevitably use it to relax mindlessly, not develop spiritually. And I routinely miss a million different opportunities during the day to effortlessly integrate new observances. I’m stuck in my ways.

It’s not all bad. Being a parent brings its own opportunities for spirituality. I love the conversations I have with my older son about God. I love teaching my boys the blessings and holidays and raising them in an observant home with all its traditions.

And of course I see God in my children every day. In the miracle of their births, the blessing of their healthy bodies, the beautiful way in which they grow and develop. I look at my children with radical amazement, I really do.

But I can’t help miss the days when my own spiritual boundaries were endless, when each text opened up a world and I hungered to learn more, strive more, be more. Those days seem so far away.

Will this be the year?


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