The Jewish New Year is upon us. Snuck up me, like it does sometimes. The overarching theme of the Jewish High Holy Days is change. But what about changes imposed on you?
I find myself troubled these days, I think I’m experiencing what folks in Christian community call a “crisis of faith”. Actually that might be a little grandiose; perhaps a better description might be the “Crisis of ambivalence”. Next week we Jews enter into 10 days of awe and reflection as we observe the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for those of you with old school paper calendars. I’ve written quite a bit about them and their significance to Jews and to me personally in this space. If you’re interested you can catch up here:
This weekend I’m going to be attending the Parents Weekend events at Auburn University, I’m flying down to Hot-Lanta at the pre-crack of dawn on Friday morning, returning late Sunday afternoon. I hadn’t thought much about the Jewish holidays other than having some awareness that they’re out there somewhere in September and if I get a chance I should go figure out when they are, but first I have to update my fantasy football team and eat that last donunt.. and by then I’ll have forgotten what it was I was going to do. Repeat this scenario only substitute “donuts” and “update fantasy football” with any of dozens of things on my mind and you get the idea of how I roll at the moment.
Mrs S asked me yesterday “do you want to go from straight from the airport to the Synagogue on Sunday or do you want to just go to the second service. “huh? Synagogue why would..” quick thought and bang, I realized that the most important 10 days on the Jewish Calendar are upon us.
I have done little to prepare this year. In the past I’ve always attended services on the Saturday night before; Slichot, a very interesting service where the major themes from each of the coming holidays are hinted, the melodies of prayers make the switch to the High Holiday Melodies, the design of this service is to calm the mind and get one to move into a more spiritual and serious mode as the holidays approach. I’ve taken time in the past to reflect and consider what I want to do differently in the year to come.
Not this year. This year, I didn’t even go looking for the dates on the calendar.
In prior years I’ve been a fairly regular attendee at the Saturday morning services at our shul. I used to shoot for 2 out of 4 weeks. I really enjoyed the time for reflection and quiet contemplation. That being said I don’t really enjoy attending as much when there are B’nai Mitzvah’s going on, and the pews are packed with family and friends of the family and people I don’t know and blah blah blah. I’m way more interested in the smaller services with congregants. Sometime these are so small even the clergy doesn’t attend, leaving it to lay people to lead the service. That’s OK to, I can certainly help out and enjoy the chance to be a part of it.
But this year, for whatever reason, lots of kids turning 13 I guess, I think we had something going on almost every week, so I had an excuse not to go. Or maybe it was the idea that I was way too busy, or whatever. Bottom line is I’ve stopped going. Maybe it was fact that for me this is often solitary deal, I couldn’t get the family to go with me most of the time. They hate the smaller services because they don’t like to be called on to participate, a distinct possibility when there are only a few people in the congregation.
Maybe it was my poor state of mind this year that kept me from going. There were a lot of things which I enjoy that just I dropped this year; fishing for one, walking’s another, cooking a third. Just never felt like doing them.
Maybe it was that I lost some balance and put more emphasis on things that are passing in nature and less on things that really matter.
Maybe I’ve had a true crisis of faith. As the kids are getting older and out into the world I no longer know what they’re doing about religion and faith or if they even have any? I had a conversation earlier this summer with close friend of mine who happens to be an evangelical Christian about this very topic. What would my feelings be if my kid announced that he’s become in involved with Young Life or Campus Crusade and had converted? What if he or she does it for a partner?
In essence this is the root behind the issues I’ve had with folks and why we’ve not had a second of contact in 10 years. My friend reminded me that when they’re sailing on the seas of the world in pursuit of dreams and fortune, we parents do not have same impact and influence that we once did, and we have to trust they’re going to use the tools we’ve given them during the time we had them, to make good decisions for themselves. And if those decisions don’t jive with our world view, what of it. I asked him back, what happens if his kid converts, and he said there would be no circumstance that could break the bonds of family save some sort of physical or mental abuse.
Well, this line of thinking really started me thinking “well, then why do I care?” What’s the point in putting so much value in tradition and religion that I would allow to define my relationships with my own kids. And from that place it was a short stroll to “maybe it just doesn’t matter, all this stuff is made up anyway”.
And that’s where I sit today.
Stewing a bit. Wondering on some level why after years of regular attendance, and then dropping completely out of sight that no one has bothered to asked me about it. Let me get down off the good ship Pitifulme for a second. After kids finish Bar Mitzvahs it’s not uncommon to not see their parents around the shul much. The vast majority of Jewish adults in my age group only attend at the High Holidays. Well shit, maybe I’m pisssed that I would get lumped into that group, whom I’ve never had much respect for. Pitiful and self-serving ain’t I?
I’m guessing the tug that of the 49 previous years of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur attendance will pull me back in. And when I’m there I’m sure I’ll feel some energy that will inspire me to return for Saturdays. Or maybe I can compromise and attend on Friday, I have a better chance of getting my wife there in that case… I don’t know it’s weird space I find myself this year and I’m not sure how I’m going to reconcile it.
The very bottom line, I’m going to miss having the lads with me, even if they were there under protest. And I have some fear they may not come back in future Holidays. A couple years ago I went to Houghton to hang out with the oldest, it was one of the best Yom Kippurs of my life. Auburn is a little to far for that, but what’s he going to do? My wife suggest nagging him about not a good idea, let him decide and do what he wants to do.
Yup, change sucks especially the kind that that’s forced on you. I do have some reconciling to do apparently. And the good news is, that’s exactly what these holidays are all about.
Feel better about them already.