Oct 1 2014
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
“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 →
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
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 →
Sep 23 2014
The High Holy Days are quickly coming, and if you are like me, you are probably already planning your Rosh Hashanah celebration. I happen to adore Rosh Hashanah and consider it to be one of my favorite holidays. What isn’t to love about celebrating a sweet New Year? Because the symbols of apples and honey feature so predominantly in celebrating this auspicious event, I usually feature them throughout my menu and my table decor. Here are five ways you can bring the elements of apples and honey into your own home. (Above image via Style Me Pretty)
1. Apples & Flowers. Read the rest of this entry →
I’ve always loved the Jewish High Holidays. The blowing of the shofar, the time spent with family, the food (oh! the food!), and the overall sense of starting over with a clean slate. And now, as a parent, I’ve truly come to appreciate the opportunity for reflection and forgiveness that the High Holidays provide. Even with Yom Kippur–a mostly somber affair–we have a chance to own up to our wrongdoings, apologize for them, vow to do our best not to repeat them, and then start anew.
What better parenting tool than that?
Over the past few years we’ve really started to fine-tune our own personal family traditions around the High Holidays. If we’re not visiting family, we will spend the second day of Rosh Hashanah taking a walk through our local woods, ending up at a small brook in order to do tashlich. Tashlich–the symbolic practice of washing away our sins–is a powerful one for both kids and adults alike. My son was around 4 years old the first time he grasped what it was all about. I explained to him that each piece of bread represented a behavior, action, or thought that we wanted to change in the New Year. We toss the bread in the water and it washes the poor thoughts and actions away, giving us space to do better. He would throw in crumbs and say, “No hitting!” or, “No yelling!” As he grew older, his answers became more nuanced and thoughtful. Read the rest of this entry →
My children and I will be spending the High Holidays apart this year. This is nothing new. When my now ex-husband left our home in Albany five years ago and moved back in with his parents on Long Island, part of our agreement was that our son and daughter would spend most of the Jewish holidays with him and his family. They were 2.5 and 5 years old at the time.
During the first year of our marriage separation, I travelled to Long Island with my children for Passover. I was not ready to let go. It was all so new, this idea of not being with my chubby-cheeked babes every moment of the day. I stayed with a friend-of-a-friend who opened up her house to me, aware of my tenuous grip on sanity as I prepared to leave my kids for a full day with their dad and grandparents for the very first time. I was scared.
Of course the visit went just fine, and subsequent holidays and alternating weekends carried on without me. My children are now 7.5 and 10 years old. They love the car rides down to Long Island, visits to museums, and–most importantly–time with their dad and grandparents. They are truly lucky to be loved by so many caring people. For this, I am blessed. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 22 2014
My husband and I grew up very differently–I in an Orthodox household that celebrated every single Jewish holiday, and he in a Reform one that acknowledged Passover, saw Rosh Hashanah as a good excuse to make brisket, and suffered through Yom Kippur.
When I began dragging my husband to family gatherings for holidays he’d previously never even heard of, he was a good sport about it–and he still is, when those holidays fall on the weekends. But for the past number of years, the holiday calendar has been particularly cruel to those of us bound by limited time off and jobs that don’t close for Jewish observances. And this year is no exception.
Now I’m not particularly upset about spending my vacation days on the holidays this year, especially since we don’t have any major travel plans. But try convincing someone who grew up the way my husband did that it’s worthwhile using up all your vacation time to celebrate every single holiday our religion boasts. Read the rest of this entry →
One of the overarching themes of the High Holidays is atonement. In synagogue on Yom Kippur, we say the Vidui prayer, a confessional, in which we pound our chests and fess up to a host of sins that we, collectively, have committed throughout the year (i.e. I have lied, I have cheated, I have robbed).
This year we’d like to tweak the Vidui a little bit. Taking inspiration from one of our most popular High Holiday posts in which Jordana Horn adapted the Vidui for parents, this year Kveller will compile our own inventory of modern day sins and confessions. This is where you come in! Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 18 2014
I will never forget the first time my parents took me to Kol Nidrei services, and the congregation stood, as the night fell, to put on their tallitot (prayer shawls). After the blessing, those who were standing like a forest of people all around me picked up their tallit and draped them over their shoulders. The movement of hundreds of people in silence all together was stunning. That silence was incredibly beautiful–and the wind that I felt from the lifting of the fabric felt to me, a small girl, like the wings of angels beating.
Eileen Price’s recent post on Kveller, “I Won’t Force My Kids to Attend High Holiday Services,” prompted me to respond. In my opinion, it is incredibly, incredibly important to bring children to services for the High Holidays. There are so many reasons, but to my mind, it all boils down to two simple ones:
1. No matter how Jewishly observant a person is the rest of the year, this is a time when all Jews come together as a community. Read the rest of this entry →