Sunday, October 1, 2017

My Takeaway From This High Holiday Season

Many times, in recent weeks -- for a variety of reason -- I found myself thinking, “Ughhh, I’ve had it with the Jewish people,” and as the High Holidays drew closer, I found myself less and less inclined to attend the marathon of services I knew was around the corner.

Tonight, in an email, a friend asked, “I am curious if you eventually did sit out all the Holy Days. If so, how did that work for you? If not did you find worship satisfying?"

Here’s what I told him:
I sat out erev Rosh HaShanah and the first day. I did, however, attend the second day, the service at which I am honored each year with an opportunity to chant Torah. Usually my dad comes with me to that service, but with his imminent move (the packers are coming tomorrow, the movers on Tuesday) that wasn't feasible this year. However, he was able to watch the live stream, which he enjoyed quite a bit.

I did not attend any Yom Kippur services, but I did watch a bit of the live stream from Shaaray Tefila, including yesterday's sermon, as well as some of the Facebook live stream from my parents' congregation in New Jersey. I was OK not attending services and felt as though I was taking care of me, which is something I don't do very well or very often. Also, as a regular minyan-goer, I know that prayer is not easy and that it takes hard work. With everything else going on at the moment, I did not have the bandwidth necessary to make my worship truly meaningful.

I am looking forward to festival morning services on Sukkot and Simchat Torah, when it will be safe to go back into the sanctuary. I love Hallel -- and the switch to mashiv haruach umorid hagashem. After that, things will go back to "normal" in our weekly minyan -- and we'll start all over again with B'reishit in Torah study.

But first, our family will close the door for the last time at 12 Webster Road on Tuesday, after which I think I'll have a huge sense of relief that the stress, anxiety, and anticipation surrounding the move will finally be a thing of the past for all of us. I hope that we'll all enjoy wonderful new beginnings and many celebrations in 5778.
In his response, my friend shared a perspective I had not previously considered: “What a great reflection on skipping what many Jews do, and what joyful anticipation of doing what many Jews don't!” Regarding my dad’s move from our childhood home, he wrote, “In memory, 12 Webster Road will always be yours. It continues to shape the you who you are!”

Thanks to our email exchange (and the insights of my friend), I’ve arrived at my takeaway for this High Holiday season: I truly love Jewish living and learning 51 weeks of the year -- and I should revel in the joy they bring me, and not feel guilty about the rest.