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 school.
My little girl is in kindergarten (and she attended a secular preschool), so this is my first year navigating the schedule of fall holidays. We were already planning to be in shul for the first day of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur (which was on Shabbat anyway), so those were no big deal. And yes, we built a sukkah and ate many of our meals in it, but I definitely didn’t need two school-free days to sit outside and contemplate the changing of the seasons and the fragility of life.
Or did I?
As I look forward to getting back to a regular schedule, I’m also taking a moment to look back on the past several weeks and months. It’s been a time of great transition, not only for our little family but also for the natural world around us. Here in New England, the weather is starting to get cold and the leaves are changing to spectacular shades of orange, yellow, and red as they ready to fall to the ground. I’ve been going for long walks, and reflecting on the wisdom of our foremothers and fathers who decided to schedule our most important holidays in the fall and the spring, the seasons of change, of renewal, of opportunity. The reality is that once the heat of summer and cold of winter set in, so do our long-standing habits. This was my chance.
And I let it slip.
I let it slip because I got caught up in work and deadlines, in schedules and childcare, in setting up swim lessons and ballet class, and putting together Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot crafts for our synagogue and my daughter’s preschool class. I let it slip because it’s so easy to get focused on small details and tasks with clear outcomes and it’s so, so hard to think about who I am, what I’ve done well, where I’ve missed the mark, and what I’d like to change moving forward.
The good news is that the Jewish holidays are there to provide me with the structure, guidance, and inspiration to get a little perspective and figure out where to make some much needed changes. The better news is that I don’t have to wait until Passover for another chance at rebooting myself. There’s a reason why the text of the Shehechiyanu blessing thanks God for “giving us life, sustaining us to this moment, and allowing us to reach this day,” and not for “helping us reach this one particular super-special event that doesn’t happen very often.” Any moment, as long as we are alive and breathing, can be a Shehechiyanu moment, an opportunity to thank God for yet another chance to let go and start again.
I haven’t said my Shehechiyanu yet, because I haven’t quite figured out what my next step will be, which is part of why I’m writing this post. I hope that many of you can relate to some or all of what I’m written. We’ve all got children, we’re all tired and busy, and I suspect we’re all longing for a greater sense of connection and grounding in our lives.
What ideas do you have for finding a little time in our busy days for silence, study, prayer, whatever? Are there books you’ve been working your way through? Podcasts or songs that inspire you? Prayers or meditations? I’d love to hear them. Perhaps with a little bit of practice, I’ll be ready to take full advantage of the week my daughter gets off next spring for Passover.