For those who observe Rosh Hashanah – the beginning of the New Year – L’Shana Tova. My wish for my family and friends is for a year of joy and good health, laughter and abundant love, peace in spirit and in the world (I realize that’s probably a stretch but it doesn’t hurt to hope). The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as ‘the days of awe‘. As God opens the book of life, as we ask to be sealed into its pages for another year our thoughts turn in. Have our actions and our hearts been in sync with an intent that is bigger than our own hubris? Have we been kind? Have we been fair? Generous in both deed and thought? Please understand, this is my interpretation of these mystical, spiritual days – I am neither rabbi nor maven on Judaism. I’m just a woman who responds to the need to consider my actions, apologize for any hurts that I may have caused either with intention or with thoughtlessness and to commit to trying to do better.
I remember my parents during this time of year – from the tender moments of sneaking in to sit with my parents during the adults’ service (which as I recall lasted f-o-r-e-v-e-r), leaning against my father and playing with the tassels on his prayer shawl. Challah and honey. A prayer for a sweet year. Kisses on both cheeks. Makes my body ache with an undefinable pain that starts in my heart and courses its way through my body. It’s a visceral thing, this missing them.
I have no wisdom to offer here – certainly nothing that we all don’t already know. We are imperfect, we are wondrous; we are foolish, we are wise; we are giving, we are self-absorbed; we are perfectly imperfect. So I may not get every nuance of these splendid and awe-filled days, but I get enough to know that wishing you a sweet and loving year is not exclusive to any one religion. I get enough to know that I deeply hurt when I think of the times I have shown people the worst of myself instead of my best (or at least my average self). And I certainly get that considering the synchronicity between my heart and my actions is more than just an annual effort. This year may I do a better job of being a better person. May I walk on this earth with a lighter more loving step and let my priorities reflect an understanding that all of this passes too quickly to be dismissive. A year of light and love and the gift of tomorrow. Amen.
My cousin’s daughter got married last night. Gorgeous bride, handsome groom – they could be on the cover of any bridal magazine. They glowed, as only newlyweds can glow – reflecting so much light that your eyes are magnetically drawn to them, as one looks to the stars on the clearest of nights.
Our family has shrunk remarkably – my cousins and I now represent the elders of this tribe. How strange, as we compared ages and reminisced about how large those nominal differences in our ages once seemed. We don’t speak of our parents, for none of us have them any longer. Family events used to be full of grown ups – there were so many of them, and eight of us. We don’t say anything because each of us is so acutely aware of the absences. The counterpoint of love and loss is too exquisite.
We are wearing our seniority with limited gravitas. Dancing with typical disinhibition, not giving a moment’s thought to any propriety associated with our status. I killed it (and myself) in five-inch heels, caring little about the consequences (sounds like me in college actually). Let’s not talk about my crooked shape today. It was worth it. We longed for the opportunity to forget that there were no parents watching us from the perimeter, nudging each other and marveling at our energy and rhythm. My dad wasn’t there when the music moved into Motown; I longed to see my mom’s ‘dancing face’ (lips pursed seductively, eyes harmless yet flirtatiously looking directly at her partner). I wore her bracelet because I knew she would want to be there. The days of going from one table to another knowing that because you were one of the kids, you were met with the kind of familial adoration which may have little heft, yet envelops completely. My aunt’s laugh – which would begin a chain reaction with her brothers both hiccupping and crying with delight. Who knows what our children see when they watch us. Fortunately they dance along.
Perhaps the bittersweet taste is more acute this time of year. Tomorrow is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah – the beginning of a new year and the ten ‘Days of Awe’. ‘On Rosh Hashanah it is written on Yom Kippur it is sealed’ – the fate of another year decided by the sincerity of one’s heart, the commitment to a life led with the best of intentions, the depth of one’s atonement for causing another person pain or sorrow. I am not religious – and yet I believe deeply. I attend services on the High Holy Days – am I trying to hedge my bets? I don’t know. But I remember leaning against my father’s shoulder and playing with the fringe of his prayer shawl, doing my best to behave so I could sit with the grown-ups when the kids’ service was over. To sit with my two grown-ups.
And now that is me. And I ask myself if my words and my actions have been kind enough, my generosity sufficiently reflective of that which is in my heart, beseeching that my family be graced with a sweet, healthy year. I take my role seriously in this regard – I’m not fist pumping to Marvin Gaye, not trying to prove to my body that it’s still too young to be anything other than spontaneous and flexible. I am praying for continued life and that’s a pretty adult activity. The responsibility of the senior members of the tribe to effect with concentrated sincerity and seriousness. And the wind seems to sigh, knowing that this is the truest dance of all – one that we all move to regardless of our sense of rhythm. To my friends and family, whom I love more deeply than any ocean and with width and breadth that spans farther than the sky – I wish you a year of joy and health, abundant laughter and sweetness – and love..always, love.