Today is Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year. Ten days from now we will observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. We are told to spend the weeks leading up to these high holy days in preparation, taking inventory of our lives, asking for forgiveness, and seeking ways to be better. Every year I have the best intentions to start early so that when I step into my synagogue, I have my list, my meditations, my apologies, and my aspirations ready to go.
And every year, I fall short.
Consumed with my daily life, I find myself cramming Spirituality 101 on the drive to the temple, feverishly making mental notes and hoping that it will all become clear during the service. I pray for some Divine Intervention. But as you might expect, God is rather busy this time of year and can’t really get around to the chick from the Philly suburbs. I am left with a personal experience that always feels as if I could have done better.
This year was poised to be no different.
Last week was a killer, with a presentation in Atlantic City followed by a board meeting in San Francisco. I used plane time to keep up on what has felt like an endless stream of work since August. My attempts to reflect during the quiet moments were elusive. I fell asleep before any real inner work could be done. I arrived home Friday afternoon, exhausted but in time to grab a shower and some pizza and head up to our high school football game where Noah plays in the marching band.
I may have written on these pages before about our high school marching band. At 400 + members, it is the pride of our community. As a freshman, Noah joined on tenor sax this year, giving us a reason to attend the games, both home and away. Friday night was our first home game and the entire town showed up to cheer on the team – and, even more so, to watch the band. The evening was cool and crisp, the drums beat, and the horns blared. Chase ran around with his gang of seventh grade friends. Teenage girls squealed, running up to hug my husband, then dashing away in a fit of giggles. (As a fourth grade teacher, he is quite the celebrity.) And I was treated to an endless stream of neighbors and friends, walking past, stopping to chat, all present in the most impressive showing of our community. A perfect evening if there ever was one.
Saturday morning greeted us with cornflower blue skies, a light breeze, and sunshine. As the boys slept, Dave and I took an early morning walk with the dog. He then went off on a 20 mile run, leaving me with two teenagers and no agenda. As I thought about our upcoming Rosh Hashanah dinner which always begins with apples and honey, an idea began to form.Hey fellas, want to go pick apples at Linvilla?
The response from both: YES!!
Apple picking is a tradition for me. My parents took us as children every year – and Dave and I began with the boys when they were toddlers. We go to the same local orchard which boasts an impressive array of Fall activities beyond the Pick Your Own option. I let the boys lead the way. They chose the apples – mostly red and golden delicious with some Macouns and Staymans tossed in for good measure. When our bushel was full I tentatively asked if they wanted to walk down to the farmer’s market area and eat some apple cider donuts. Again I got the answer I wanted: YES!!
From there I was treated to watching my sons walk down their own memory lane. We strolled through the market, listened to the local band playing in the picnic area, and reminisced about how much fun they had on the play ground. We even talked about getting their faces painted. As we approached the corn mazes, they both looked at me expectantly:Mom! Can we do them? Of course. Of course you can, my loves.
And I bought them tickets and sat in the warm sun as they conquered both mazes in a fraction of the time it took them when they were little. When they emerged, we snagged a sack of apple cider donuts and scarfed them down in record time. It was probably one of the happiest afternoons of my year.
That evening and Sunday comprised dinner with my oldest and dearest friend, a lovely call with my college roommate, and a holiday meal with my Mom and family. With each experience I felt more calm, content and at peace. (Three states of being that I rarely enjoy.) And while I didn’t expressly meditate on the upcoming holiday, these simple pleasures, these “old school” interactions formed the mantra which I will arrive to synagogue with today:
Community. Tradition. Friendship. Family.
These tenets are the ones that bring me the most happiness. And it is here where I believe I have the most to contribute. It is here where I can do better.
It seems God found time this year to send me some guidance. For perhaps the first time, I am ready for these High Holy days.
5773 – bring it.
L’Shana Tova and Peace to all.