Category Archives: jewish tradition

Turn Turn Turn

I met a woman this summer who told me that she had trouble enjoying summer because of the lack of routine. She said she wasn’t sure what to do with herself because she was outside of her normal schedule. That conversation stayed with me for weeks and kept popping into my consciousness. It’s only now, on this first morning of returning to our prevailing household routines that I am understanding why, exactly, her words made such an impression on me: I thought she was crazy.

I couldn’t understand what she was talking about. I love days when we get to wake up and let our moods dictate our activities. To me, the two scariest words in the English language are ‘office job’. Now, don’t misunderstand here, I’m a creature of habit to be sure. If there isn’t a cup of coffee within the first five minutes of my morning, my entire day will be off. And I believe wholeheartedly in the value of certain routines for my kids (stories before bed are crucial for example)—but I’ll be the first to tell you that there’s no rhyme or reason to which ones give me comfort and which ones make me shiver with anxiety.

As much as I love the summer routine of having no routine at all—with each passing day in August, as the sun sets a few moments earlier, there is an anxious undercurrent of knowledge that it’s going to end. That soon, all the going-with-the-flow and doing-what-we-feel is going to give way to alarm clocks and set schedules. Certainly it all has it’s virtues: new beginnings and fresh starts among them. In our religion it’s the season for repenting to those you’ve sinned against and (my interpretation) contemplating your goals for improvement in the current year. All worthy.

This particular autumn brings change for my family. A new school for Jake. A solo trip across the country for Niall and I. More designated working hours for me. Growth and forward movement.

And so I take my anxiety and swallow hard. Step forward into the next season and set that alarm clock.

Happy New Year

Sundown tonight marks the beginning of Yom Kippur. Translated it is the Day of Atonement and it is the most solemn of the Jewish holidays. It is the last day of the Ten Days of Repentance which began on Rosh Hashanah. According to scripture, each person’s fate for the coming year is inscribed by God into “The Book of Life” on Rosh Hashanah and “sealed” on Yom Kippur. On the ten days in between Jews are commanded to seek forgiveness for any wrongs perpertrated against God or others. Yom Kippur is the day when public (in Synagogue) and private confessions are made and at the end of the holiday, one considers themselves absolved by God. If anyone apologizes to you for their actions, you are required to forgive them. I’m surely simplifying here (and Natalie, feel free to correct me on any of this) but I’ve always taken these to be the basics of this holiday.

As they often do on days as solemn as this, my thoughts have turned to my many blessings. In a time as unsettled as ours now, it feels especially important to teach my boys to believe in something. I don’t claim to have the answers, and I believe in guiding them to make their own choices. But I was raised Jewish and the traditions are ingrained in me. So we simplify. We talk of what we are sorry for. We speak of what we plan to do differently in the coming year. We are thankful and mindful and we make resolutions.

Some of the apologies are the same every year: I’m sorry I lose my temper too quickly. I’m sorry for not paying enough attention. I’m sorry for not working harder and helping more with the finances. Many of the resolutions carry from year to year: This year I will read more. I resolve to spend more time talking to my husband. I promise to try and order take-out less and put the laundry away quicker.

At temple last week the children were asked what they were thankful for. One small boy said that he was thankful for his feet so that he could run. Simple, but true. When it was his turn, Jake said that he was thankful for his life. I guess that kind of sums it up. My list is wonderfully long, but in a nutshell, my ten-year-old got it right.

Whether you celebrate or not, I wish each of you a year filled with blessings and the strength to live up to your resolutions.