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Oct 20 2014

All This Time Off for the Holidays & I Still Missed My Chance to Reflect

By at 10:55 am

fall leaves new england

Two and a half days for Rosh Hashanah.

Half a day for Yom Kippur.

Two and a half days for Sukkot.

Two days for Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

I’d love to tell you that this is a list of the days that I spent in solemn prayer and reflection over the past month. The truth is that this is actually a list of days I spent stressing about schedules and childcare and all the work I wasn’t getting done because my daughter wasn’t in school. Jewish day schoolRead the rest of this entry →

Oct 7 2014

Curly Jewish Hair May Be Trending, But I’m Sticking to the Straightener

By at 11:41 am

Curly-hair

I’ll be 48 this year.

And I’m still at war with my hair.

I read in The New York Times last month that curly hair is making a comeback. The article by Marisa Meltzer entitled, “Curls Get Their Groove Back” featured all these really cool beautiful women who are letting their hair dry au natural. Meltzer writes, “… a curly look is both natural and modern.” Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 6 2014

Never Go Apple Picking With a Toddler and a Baby

By at 10:42 am

apple-picking

The Jewish New Year is all about the sweetness of apples and honey, so that the genesis of our upcoming year is saccharine, free of the travails of the year before. As the mother of a busy 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, what better way to ring in the year than with apple picking? Great idea, right? We get to drive out to the country, fill our urban lungs with fresh rural air, take in the autumnal sights of the changing colors of the leaves, and hopefully get our kids to take a nap en route.

This adventure began with nothing but hope and good intentions. We also hoped to avoid going to a very popular apple orchard, frequented by many people we know, because they charged each person over the age of 3 (of which I’m many, many years over) a cover charge. With my clubbing days long behind me, I had no intention of paying to get into the orchard only to then have to pay an overpriced amount per pound of apples, which made the price of buying organic ones at the most expensive grocery store in my city more appealing. So, we did our research (well at least my husband said he did) and off we went.

The kids cried the entire way there. No nap. Not even a hint of one during the almost hour-long drive. Two screaming children makes for a less than serene atmosphere in which anyone could appreciate the mélange of candied-apple, golden, and bronzed hues of the aging leaves mixed with the leftover bits of green vibrancy desperately trying to hang on to the dog days of summer.  Read the rest of this entry →

How Sukkot Helped Me De-Clutter My Life

By at 9:50 am

declutter

Last year I performed a magic trick. I made most of my “stuff” disappear. I never considered myself a hoarder, at least not the kind worthy of a feature on late night cable TV, but I held on to things, lots and lots of things, because I was sentimental. I thought getting rid of them meant giving up a memory. I was also convinced I would need all of these things later on. And lots of my stuff was around simply because I had spent so much money on it that I thought I hadn’t realized each item’s value yet. Surely I would need this stuff, use this stuff, wear this stuff, and amortize the cost of this stuff… one day.

My relationship to my stuff changed last year. In September, my husband, two young daughters and I celebrated Sukkot, the festive Jewish holiday commemorating the years the Jews were believed to be wandering in the desert and protected from the elements by God. For the first time, we erected a sukkah (a temporary dwelling) in our tiny backyard and invited friends over for customary meals inside the wood and bamboo structure. Many were familiar with Sukkot but I had to explain to others why I had invited them to eat off of paper plates in a crude tent decorated with my children’s art and fake fruit.

I took to the internet in search of something more than the clunky Wikipedia definition, and found a rabbi’s simple yet beautiful interpretation of this harvest holiday that changed the way I viewed space in my home. She suggested the acts of eating, sleeping, and celebrating in such a simple dwelling should be a reminder to us of how little we need to be happy and how freeing it is to just be with so much less stuff. The metaphor stirred something within me. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 3 2014

What Kveller Parents Are Sorry For This Year

By at 11:14 am

border-vidui

As a play on the Yom Kippur confessional prayer, the Vidui, we asked you, our readers, to confess one thing you felt sorry about this year (a Kvidui, if you will). And you delivered. This past week, Kveller’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter feeds were flooded with messages of self-reflection, honesty, and even some humor.

The idea of the Vidui is for the Jewish people to band together and collectively atone for each other’s sins. So now that the sins are in, here they are without names–because they belong to all of us. We hope that, by reading these, you can recognize some parts of yourself, and together we can purge ourselves of the impatience, self-doubt, guilt, and many other flaws we experience as parents.

Thank you so much for your honesty. We wish everyone a meaningful Yom Kippur and, if you plan to fast, have an easy one. Read the rest of this entry →

The One Day of the Year When I Always Felt Jewish

By at 9:56 am

Foliage

Growing up as the only Jewish family in town meant that we missed out on a lot of things. We didn’t go to Hebrew School, we barely acknowledged Shabbat, and we had very little connection to the Jewish community. My Israeli mother did her best to give us a basis in Judaism, but since my dad did not have a Jewish background and there were no other Jews for miles around, being Jewish was more of an abstract concept than a way of life.

But, every year, when the air turned cooler and the leaves turned colors, something would change in our house. My mother would grow quieter, more solemn. Instead of laughing and scolding us in the kitchen, she’d be in her room, poring over prayer books and muttering to herself in Hebrew. Even the air would feel heavier.

On Rosh Hashanah, we’d pick a few apples from the old orchard behind our house. We’d dip them in honey, wish each other a Shana Tova, and go back to our lives. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 1 2014

Will I Ever Forgive My Ex-Husband?

By at 10:05 am

Divorce

For the closing event at camp this past summer, our children paraded around a field in costumes for “Halloween in July,” collecting candy as Michael Jackson’s Thriller blasted from the speakers. While I watched the children scramble to fill their bags with treats, I noticed a man dressed in business casual slowly approaching, and for an instant his familiar appearance gave me joy. I almost smiled, but then I remembered how much I hate him.

Our divorce was finalized last Passover, and though we were both released from the contract that bonded us, I am still enslaved, unable to break free from the pain and anger. I was hoping that this Rosh Hashanah would bring forgiveness and peace at last, but it would be a lie to say I have forgiven him.

I willingly admit my own mistakes that contributed to the failure of our marriage. I am truly sorry. I also regret that we did not try harder to get the help that we needed to preserve our relationship. This is not the life I had envisioned for my family. But if the father of my children were to stand before me today (or send an email or a text) and ask for my forgiveness, I am not sure how I would respond. In my heart of hearts, I suppose I know what the correct response should be, but I cannot swear I would do as I am supposed to do. And while I rarely question God, our sages, or tradition, I find it impossible to forgive simply because it is dictated at this time of year. (Lucky for me, I guess, my ex has not asked for forgiveness.) Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 30 2014

The High Holidays, According to Daniel Tiger

By at 11:39 am
Tiger

via Youtube

 

“What’s teshuvah?” my 3-year-old daughter asked as we were getting dressed for services on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and talking about the holiday.

I explained that during this time of year from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, we can change things about ourselves and how we act in the world. I said, “If you don’t like how something is going, you can turn it around.”

She thought for a moment, then her face lit up and she said, “Like Daniel Tiger says!” Before I could figure out what the heck she was talking about, she sang, “When something seems bad, turn it around and find something good.” Read the rest of this entry →

Bribing Kids with Candy at Temple is Not Cool

By at 9:49 am

Pink-marshmallows

My husband, toddler, and I just attended Rosh Hashanah services at our parents’ temple, and the highlight for my son was the blowing of the shofar. Granted, we’d been talking it up well in advance of services, but it was such a thrill for him to stand near the rabbi while it sounded repeatedly. But that excitement was quickly overshadowed by what happened next: Following the blowing of the shofar, all the young kids who had gathered around the bimah were given candy. This happened every time the shofar was blown, and frankly, I wasn’t happy about it.

First of all, from a nutritional standpoint, the idea of my 2.5-year-old consuming a series of sugary candies (chocolates, marshmallows, etc.) in the hour leading up to lunchtime was enough to drive me crazy. Candy is something my son gets sparingly, and while nobody forced him to eat it, I wasn’t about to risk a major public fit by yanking it out of his hands while all the other children around him indulged. (As a side note, I think it’s a better practice for adults to ask a young child’s parent if it’s OK to give him candy before proactively offering it up. When I host play dates, I always ask the adult guests if it’s OK to put out certain foods and beverages before actually doing so.)

But the bigger issue I have is that the distribution of candy almost seemed like a bribe to get the kids to keep coming back to hear the shofar. I can’t speak for the other children, but my son was excited enough about the shofar to have gone up to the bimah repeatedly, without needing any outside encouragement to do so. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 29 2014

Waiting For an Apology That Will Never Come

By at 10:17 am

Landline

I used to have the right idea for Yom Kippur. I liked the notion of an entire month to clean up my messes from the past year, and I worked hard to deliver carefully worded apologies. The promise of a clean slate appealed to my resolution-making personality. And I appreciated the fact that the obligation to make life improvements deeper than, say, eating better, differentiated the Jewish New Year from the secular one. I was a High Holiday superfan. 

This year, however, I’ve found it difficult to focus solely on my faults, my wrongdoings, and my petty behavior. Enough about me, I’ve found myself thinking. Let’s talk about you.

I realize it’s not in the “High Holiday spirit” to preoccupy myself with the ways I’ve been wronged, but I can’t stop thinking about the few relationships in my life that could use some healing. One friend, in particular, I’ve drifted apart from due to so many layers of back and forth “offenses” through the years that I’m not even sure how the tension started or why. I’m willing to do my part, but I refuse to take all the responsibility. Read the rest of this entry →

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