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Observing The SIGH Holidays… I mean The HIGH Holidays

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Baruch Atah Adonai… I Need To Let Out A Sigh.

There is a lot about my childhood that I don’t remember, but memories of the Jewish High Holidays I would never forget.  As a kid, going to Temple for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur was not negotiable.   Attendance was mandatory.  According to my parents, the High Holidays meant dressing up in fancy clothes, showing up for services on time and paying attention when the Rabbi delivered his sermon.  According to me, the High Holidays meant counting how many times I could braid the strings attached to my Dad’s tallit and it also meant being as strategic as possible when it came to using the “Can I please go to the bathroom” card.

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In general we were observant, but I’d hardly call us ultra religious.  It was more about the traditions and the values than anything else.  Year after year, we’d sit in the same spot in the same row on the right side of the synagogue surrounded by the same families.  There was comfort in the familiarity of knowing that if I twisted my neck all the way to the left, I’d see my friends across the aisle and if I synchronized my watch correctly and stuck to the premeditated plan, we’d meet up in the hallway at precisely the same time.

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My Friend:  “What took you so long?”

Me: (sighing) “I know, I’m sorry.  My Dad wouldn’t let me walk out until they closed the ark.”

My Friend:  “How long do you have to stay?”

Me: (bigger sigh) “Ugh, we just got here.  I think he’s making us stick it out until they blow the shofar.”  (simultaneous sigh and eye roll)

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I’d get through Rosh but I knew that the big Yom was lurking right around the corner.  Somehow within a week, our Jewishness seemed to increase because we were reminded repeatedly how Yom Kippur was the more serious one of the High Holy Days.  (UM, obviously it’s the more serious one… We’re being starved to death!)

My Dad:  “Let’s not have any trouble.  I want you to sit still.   Pay attention because we’re gonna discuss the sermon later.  Oh, and go to the bathroom now so you don’t have to get up sixty-two times.”

Some battles were not worth fighting and I knew my energies would be better served working through my hunger pains and getting rid of the headache that had already set in, so I replied not with words, but with a defeated sigh under my breath.

Elohaynu Melech Ha’olam… Who Wants A Shot Of Rum?

One of the best family traditions I remember about Yom Kippur was the shot of whisky my Dad and his brother would knock back the second we got home to break the fast.   Hightailing it directly to the counter in the back of our kitchen which doubled as the bar for holidays and gatherings, they’d lift up their glasses, clink ’em together, say “Good Yontif”  in unison and then swig it.  Needless to say,  I couldn’t wait to be old enough to get in on the action!

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Now that I’m an adult, I feel strongly that these traditions continue.  As parents, my husband and I have an obligation to teach our children about their heritage and to make sure we are instilling in them the same values and lessons we learned as kids during the Jewish New Year.  Whether they like it or not,  they must show up for services and check in with God. Their attendance is mandatory.   It’s not negotiable.   Now, if we could only get there…

Me:  “Boys, come on.  I’ll help you get dressed.  I don’t want to be late.”

The 5 year old:  “I’m not going.  I don’t want to wear fancy clothes.”

Me:  “Oh, you’re going.  And you’re wearing the fancy clothes.”

The 7 year old:  “Do I have to wear a suit?  I actually WANT to wear a suit.”

The 5 year old: (crying)  “A soot?  I’m not wearing a soot.  I-Don’t-Want-To-Go!”

Me: (annoyed)  “Save your complaints for God.  He’s waiting for us.  NOW GET UP!  And who keeps honking that goddamn horn?”

The 7 year old:  “Oh that’s Dad.  He’s been in the car for the last twenty minutes.  He said to tell you not to forget the tickets.  He couldn’t find them.  You know where they are, right?  He also said to hurry up.”

The 5 year old:  “Mom, you said goddamn.”

Me: (Sighing) “Yes. Yes I did.  I’ll take it up with God when I see him.  Now just get your shoes on and LET’S GO!”

If I had known getting to Temple was the easy part, I probably wouldn’t have rushed them out the door so quickly.

Hamotzi… Stop Embarrassing Me!

7yr old: (in a voice much louder than a whisper)  “I need a drink of water.”

Me: (whispering) “Tough.  We just got here.  You’re fine.  You don’t need water.”

7yr old:  (not quite grasping the whisper thing)  “But…”

Me:  “SSHHHHHH.  I said, Tough!  Now sit down and be quiet.”

5yr old:  (Obviously not even attempting to whisper) “Is this really God’s house?  Is he here yet?  Which one is he?”

Me: (Sighing)  “Yes.  Maybe. I don’t know.  Just be respectful.  And why are your shoes off????”

I’m still confused as to how these children managed to get sweaty in an air conditioned sanctuary and I don’t understand how my 5 year old lost the tie he was wearing.  Overall I kept my cool and refrained from screaming at the kids while there was heavy duty praying going on around us.   I mean, what would God say if instead of singing The Shema, I went totally bat shit crazy on their asses?  I guess I should have expected their behavior because if memory serves, I acted no differently when I was that age.

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AHHHHH-MEN… We’re Coming Back When?

As a family we survived our first (of what I hope will be many) High Holiday services, even if we racked up quite a few glares in the process.  Going forward, I will make sure to have the kids well hydrated ahead of time to avoid multiple trips to the water fountain and I will also give them a refresher course on what it means to whisper.  They’ll have just a few days to brush up on their skills because whether they like it or not, we’re heading back on Saturday to do it all over again.  We must keep the traditions alive.  Their attendance is mandatory.  It’s not negotiable!

AND JUST TO LET YOU KNOW… According to the Talmud, Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement” is the holiest day of the Jewish New Year.   It is a day set aside to “afflict the soul,” to atone for the sins of the past year (OH BOY).  That said, my kids better be behaved because God and I have a lot of catching up to do.  It is well-known that you are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking on Yom Kippur (KILL ME NOW).  As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jewish law also specifies additional restrictions such as wearing leather shoes (WTF) and the über religious Orthodox Jews are prohibited from engaging in sexual relations (GASP).  Okay, so clearly God is pissed at me since he’s taking away all my favorite things but I’m hopeful if he hears me truly repenting for my sins as I ask to cleanse my soul, he’ll go easy and wipe the slate clean!    


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11 responses to “Observing The SIGH Holidays… I mean The HIGH Holidays

  1. Amazingly true in so many ways! I always feel like I've had a workout just getting the three boys dressed and out the door for temple. And, I'm always the mom with a small purse overflowing with fruit snacks, pretzels and other crap to keep them quiet for the whole hour that we are there.

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