what a month!
It seriously felt like every single Jewish holiday EVER landed in September this year. Just as I would gather thoughts for a blog entry, I would be swept away into a new frame of mind, new thoughts, and new menus. Thus, there’s been no blogging and we go “back to school” this week and I’m not sure how prepared I am. Let’s try and bring it all to the forefront and catch up before classes get rolling again.
the yom kippur heavy
As always, Yom Kippur was brutal. Each year I think it will be easier than the last but I always seem to find myself in that really grumpy place at around 3PM. I was definitely prepared better this year and had a good amount of meditating done and thought there would a pleasing “refresh” in services. It’s funny, right after Yom Kippur I read a blogger say that it was her favorite holiday. I thought “How can it be your favorite?!” But I understood what she meant quite quickly. I do, in fact, LOVE what we do on Yom Kippur. I think it is so important for everyone to take the time and reflect on themselves. No only reflect, but to also forgive. I always imagine a world where every single person did this at least once a year and how helpful it would be to our communication with each other in general. I have always been a soul searcher and do appreciate the act very much. I just personally could not shake the feeling for days. Truth is, right before the Hagim last year, big family decisions were made and a lot of heavy things were said and done. Throughout the (crazy) year, things eventually took a turn for the better (BH) coincidently (or not) just in time for the holidays this year. Even though things are looking brighter, I guess I still had A LOT to process. I’m thinking this could be why I personally had such an intense time. I’ve been through a seriously emotional roller coaster that wasn’t just about me and my own spiritual growth, it directly included others. My actions and my words affected my whole family. So there’s that.
During prayer, I guess I went really deep inside myself and stayed there for awhile. Even if I pretended to come back to the surface, it was like I still had one foot in the deep. I felt really exposed and had a tough time forgiving myself. Most Yom Kippur services include a Yizkor (memorial) Service to honor those no longer with us. No matter how many times I told myself not to – I BAWLED and nearly broke down! Can we just say that the fasting makes me really weak? Good excuse? Services were also super moving, this shul is BLESSED with a wonderful Chazzan who not only brings tears to my eyes constantly, but is also bringing a really fresh idea to musical accompaniment in prayer. I was up and down. I cried and then I felt lifted and then I would bury my head in the siddur and cry again – then laugh. Loudly. And wouldn’t you know, I came out of it! I survived just like I always do. I am okay and I’ll reiterate that I do believe in the process. It’s a place we have to go every now and then. How else could we truly make teshuva, present ourselves to Hashem and let him into our hearts with peace if we don’t dig into our deepest parts and face ourselves? One of my tougher Elul meditations was one where we had to stare into the mirror. This is not an easy thing to do!
so where’s my Refresh?
Honestly, I don’t think I felt truly refreshed until this past Shabbat. We failed Sukkot because we did not end up with a succah at the house. This didn’t help the anger that was looming around my mood. We did, however, eat in four different succahs which was lovely and I pulled joy out of anything I could find. Like I said, I just couldn’t shake it – even as happy and “hippy” (as my sister says) as Sukkot is supposed to be. Luckily Sukkot last enough days that I eventually let myself breath. I let it go. I enjoyed the cool breezes of eating outside and taking a count of the beautiful people around me. Breathing. Enjoying life.
And then before you knew it, it was Simchas Torah! For Simchas Torah we celebrate the Torah. We literally dance with it, love it and hold it. It goes deeper, of course, but you get the idea. We end the reading cycle and look forward to starting all over again, to finding new lessons and inspirations. THIS was a fun party! At this point, I didn’t have to think about breathing and enjoying – I just did. I drank the wine, I met new people and shared joy with my children.
Then came Shabbat on the very next night. Here came the peace. We didn’t have any plans, we didn’t go to shul, we just relaxed. My oldest daughter recently starting sharing that Shabbat is her favorite holiday (adorable, right?) and so she helped me set the table with a feast – just for us. I pulled out my dusty Torah and flipped to the beginning. How fun, I thought – to start again. AND IT HIT ME. I had one of those beautiful epiphanies that keeps you smiling through the night and in your sleep. Bereishit is The Beginning and we see the Creation. It’s so refreshingly simple. Light, Darkness, G-d. We see Hashem creating the world and so I’m thinking about Faith. You can’t help it; in order to read through this you bring up Gd creating all of this and therefore validating his existence. And then it hits me. Making teshuva, finding Gd, that’s where we started the hagim! We started meditating in Elul on the confrontation with Gd and we went through this whole “process” we call the High Holidays and we END it…at the BEGINNING.
I felt my Refresh. There it was. I felt I completed something. Not sure exactly WHAT but it felt completed and I felt great. I realized this is the very reason I wanted to engage as much as I could into the season, the Yamim Noraim. I didn’t know until I did it. Until I had really made an effort to take time off of work, to involve my family, to write about it, and to not stop after Yom Kippur and jump right back into the routine – until I had done that did I see why. Because there’s a reason. A reason Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, Simchas Torah are all technically included in “High Holidays”. There is a reason. You may not always figure it out. You may have to fall down really hard in order to get up and reach higher than you ever were before falling. But it will feel good when you reach that mark, when you get back up, when you look around and see a bigger circle of people. You will feel good and you will want to keep going.
Yes, my expectations were met. And surpassed.
Oddly enough, a lot of my Yom Kippur flowers stayed tough until after Simchas Torah!