With the New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur right after, it is a time of religious and family celebrations. And I had the pleasure of both.
Since I was a little girl, sitting next to my mom and dad at synagogue, the awe of the “High Holy Days” and the gathering of my family for a huge traditional meal sunk into my psyche. And now it continues in the same way, since now I have children and a dear husband who respects and shares the celebrations as both of our parents did.
Stu and I are members of a congregation on Long Island where we live. Over 1,000 people attended the service and each seemed to have the same reverence for the holiday as I do. After all, the Jewish people have survived thousands of years, with the holiday going back to Biblical times when the it was designated as the beginning of the year.
I find the hours spent in synagogue a time of renewal and relaxation. I sit back and relish the words of the rabbi, who always has an interesting topic for his sermon, and two special parts of the service: the magnificent voices of the Israeli Choir (which comes to us courtesy of donations from congregants) and the blowing of the shofar.
The shofar is a ram’s horn that is a challenging instrument that takes years of practice to learn. It is blown 100 times on Rosh Hashanah, a two day celebration. The newsletter at Temple Beth Sholom, where we attend, explained the meaning of the tradition. Each “blast” has a special significance. One long uninterrupted blast represents the complacency with the status quo, suggesting “I’m a good Jew. I’m a good person.” Then there are three medium blasts. These are meant to be the sound of the first glance within oneself, an awakening and the heartbreaking feeling that comes from unflinching self-evaluation. The next blowing is nine short staccato sounds that are meant to bring repentance and growth, bit by bit. The last blast is one extra long note. It’s inspiring to me to hear how long the note is held. It symbolizes the birth of a new and better self.
Repeated throughout the Rosh Hashanah holiday, for me the shofar blowing is awe-inspiring.
After the services I was thrilled to have my children Josh and Tracey, with tiny, precious Hudson, join Samantha and Spencer, with both spicy Morgan and darling Blake, around my dinner table with the Broner family, minus Sam, who went off to Tufts University. And as a bonus, dear friends Mel and Claire Shulman joined us too.
To have them all with me, and to even have Elizabeth sending photos of her little Addison and joyous Jonah as they went to services in Dallas, all helped to make this year’s holiday super special.
It made me feel that my parents would be proud to know I was continuing the traditions that had been handed to them and their ancestors before them. It was an extended wonderful weekend blending family and religious traditions.