What were my expectations for last night?
Let’s point out that I have two categories to discuss: The Spiritual and The Political Logistics.
Spiritually, I have been incredibly excited about Rosh Hashanah coming up. I was really proud of myself for committing to taking Cheshbon Hanafesh seriously and actually following through. (I only chickened out on a couple of the meditations, maybe 3). Our last meditation was actually to embrace ourselves for the work we’ve done and I shed a tear (of course). In this sense, I was hoping to not feel such a heavy aura around myself on Erev Rosh Hashanah as I normally would feel. I even thought I might not cry as heavily if I were more prepared, not be surprised as much by the emotions coming up. Spiritually, I could not WAIT for services so I can see how different the experience might be. (This would be my 3rd Rosh Hashanah at this temple) I could not wait to just stand before Hashem in such an official way, especially with a large crowd praying too!
In the days just beforehand, however, I remembered some logistical matters I started to dread. There are things that occur in the Conservative/Rerform Americanized synagogues that have always been hard for me to swallow. This is not my first time blogging about High Holidays, by the way. Let’s begin with the fact that they collect your dues right before the new year. So there’s that letter that comes with your invoice – If you do not pay at least …. by this date….High Holiday tickets… BUY tickets. I’m sure there’s good reason for getting the books straightened out for the new year, makes sense. But when you’re on the spiritual journey side of things and you just can’t wait to get those tickets in the mail and you get this instead, it BURNS. Why are there tickets in the first place, you ask? I don’t know! How did High Holidays become the year’s biggest concert event? Literally, you can PAY for better seats up close, VIP parking on the temple lot. BURN. One of the congregants I am getting to know said “It’s like box seats at the Hollywood Bowl!” I laughed, but it was true. This kind of business always takes the joy out of it for me and I start to dread going. I even thought I wouldn’t go, just to prove a point.
Fortunately on Wednesday, I woke up happy about it. I even shopped for a fancy hat in the morning (with no luck). I had challah dough rising and dessert was prepped the night before and just had to be baked. My oldest daughter is in Kindergarden now and she is beginning to get into the holidays more. So her energy definitely helped my mood as well. She could not stop talking about Rosh Hashanah when I picked her up in the afternoon. She was singing all the songs she had learned at school on our way to the market (just one last time). We talked about what we were going to eat, she picked out special flowers all by herself, and so I was on the positive end again. Getting fancy ALWAYS puts me in a good mood. Rosh Hashanah has always been one of the extra fancy holidays for me. I don’t know if it comes from my youth and getting really dressed up to go to my Aunt & Uncle’s or if it’s my own “start the new year dressed to the nines – looking your best -“ kind of thing. To help you understand – I wore a dress I bought for a black tie event I didn’t attend. Long dress to the floor, super high thin heels, a shimmery evening wrap and a shimmery hair covering. I was told I looked stunning more than once, how often does THAT happen?!?! By the way, the shimmery “evening wrap” turned into my tichel on Thursday morning 😉 It’s not for everyone, I know, but I love getting fancified!!
My daughter came with me on Wednesday night (as well as Thursday) and attended “Kinder Shule” which she LOVED. So I walked into the main sanctuary alone, as usual. I’ve gotten used to this and have actually come to embrace going through the experience by myself. It’s easier to focus on myself this way – selfish as that sounds. Yet, I still had a bit of dread in me. I was eyeing the space, trying to see where I should sit, the Usher asked if I knew where I was sitting. I politely asked if all the “reserved” synagogue seats were spoken for, anywhere I can sit on this side? I was declined but at least I tried. I sat as close as I could but kept looking at that main area and all those people. I want to point out that I was early. It takes me about 7 minutes to get to shul. I left my house about an hour before services were scheduled to begin! So I was there 45 minutes early. Couldn’t wait. Then I sat and watched people walking into the front and couldn’t help but wonder if they were there for the same reason as me.
It was terribly negative of me, I know. I asked myself if I was jealous. I asked myself if I would pay the extra money if I had it and honestly I don’t know the answer to that question. It’s just never been an option. I wondered how it was going down at the Orthodox shul I also visit from time to time. Terrible thoughts, terrible BURN. I don’t know why I was obsessing but I realized right then that Jealousy is a sin I may want to cast away now! I hate admitting that I sat there with this negativity but I feel I have to. Telling you makes it real and brings it to my consciousness. Once it’s in my consciousness, I can work on the better me. I wished it wasn’t so hard for me to shake the politics OFF so I can simply enjoy the service. Hashem always answers…
He answered me with company. Can we sit with you? A woman I’m slowly getting to know with her son. They were very kind and cordial and happy to see me.
Side note, this isn’t the first time this happens to me. My first time at this temple during High Holidays, the company I got and experience that followed was so crazy, I will have to write about it separately. Seriously. This is becoming part of the adventure of attending solo.
This woman was not only attending here for the first time, but this woman has been in a lot of pain. I’ve noticed from the time I started really engaging in conversation with her that she is troubled. That something has been hurting her, a lot. You can almost immediately sense from her that she’s seeking someone to speak to, someone to care for her, someone to share with – whether it be about the matter at hand or something else. So, I held her hand as she wept telling me about it. I held her hand as she cried during services; if I wasn’t too engulfed in my own slobbering. I was grateful to sit with someone because we aren’t alone in this world. We aren’t alone in our suffering and we aren’t alone in our prayers whether we paid extra or not. Whether we walked a mile in heels or payed for VIP parking, we are all here together. Every single person in that room had a good reason for being there. The superficial matters sometimes cloud our hearts and what’s inside our soul. If we focus on the superficial, we won’t be able to make space in our hearts for Love. These are precisely the things we are called to offer up, to cast away, to make room for more Love, which in my opinion, is room for God.
Needless to say, I woke up to the first day of Tishrei (the Hebrew month that follows Elul) with a much more open and positive heart. I spent the day in services with a different attitude and I will share that in my next post. L’Shana Tovah!! (a Good Year!)