I had such a nice Yom Kippur!
This morning I read the Book of Jonah with ds8 and the littles – I’ve read it to them three times before this and they really enjoy it. It’s great since it’s part of the afternoon service but is easy to read/tell as a story. I have an illustrated children’s version, which has all the text of an adult version but the pictures definitely help them stay interested (though the first couple of times I read it, it was a version that had only one picture, and they requested that I read it a second time immediately after reading it the first time!). Then we read some of Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers – also illustrated version), which ds4 chose when I told him he could bring a book for me to read with him. I spent some time reading through the machzor (Yom Kippur prayerbook) in English – very inspiring and beautiful.
(On a side note, we attended our first co-op classes on Thursday and dd9 and ds11 made maps from biblical times that included Nineveh. Very interesting to see it on paper and then read about it in the story of Jonah a couple of days later – I love watching things tie together like this in such a seamless and integrated manner!)
For lunch, ds11 and dd9 led the meal for ds8 and the littles. Ds11 made kiddush and hamotzi for them all, then the two of them served all the food. (We prepared regular Shabbos food for them, since for children under bar/bas mitzva, it’s a holiday to be observed with traditional meals even though adults are fasting.) Ds3 was initially perturbed because I wasn’t sitting with them, and upset that ds11 was filling the roles usually filled by adults, but I sat with them for a bit and explained to him that I wasn’t eating today. They sang together (I added my voice a bit, too :)), and at the end they put all the food away and cleared the table.
Dd14 enjoys being in synagogue WAY more than I did at her age – or even when I was older than her….I was one of those who did it because I was supposed to but not infrequently was counting how many pages were left and estimating how much longer services would take. I’m sure none of you ever felt like that. So she went for the Friday night services, then back first thing in the morning until 3:30 pm. Then she came home, took a short nap and offered to stay home to watch the littles so I could go to mincha (afternoon service). My dh was the chazzan (cantor) for that service and she’s heard him a number of times, and thought I’d enjoy it. So I happily agreed, and dh came home for the fairly short break so we could walk back to synagogue together.
I haven’t been in shul for Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur for four years, and that year was the first and only time since my first child was born, so it’s not exactly something I get to do regularly! I told a friend on my way in that I hoped I was mentally up for it, since you have to have the right mindset to appreciate it, but I need not have worried. It was SO nice being in shul, particularly since there weren’t many people there at that time – I find it easier to focus on my prayers with fewer people around. It was especially nice hearing my husband’s voice leading the services, and I felt very connected with him as I listened to him.
My mother’s seat was next to mine, and it was interesting to be together in shul after all these years. My mother didn’t grow up Orthodox and when I was younger didn’t have a very high comfort level in synagogue – she often was unsure about what page to be on, or when to stand or sit. So I’d clue her in and point to my siddur (prayerbook) if I sensed it might be of help. But as helpful as that sounds, I had some judgment and negativity toward her for not knowing all that I did (even though it was thanks to her that I had the educational background that she never got, and knew things she never learned). I felt like everyone else’s mother knew what to do and it bothered me that my mother didn’t.
Today out of habit I put my finger on my place in the siddur (prayerbook) in case she looked over, when suddenly I realized – I don’t need to do that anymore! I’m no longer a kid who thinks her mother’s imperfections are some kind of reflection on me. I had a nice sense of inner peace to stand/sit next to her and not care if she stood or sat at the right time, and was truly able to accept and appreciate her for who she is. And then I suddenly realized, she doesn’t need my help anymore! I was concerned when I stood during parts that most people sit that she’d unnecessarily follow my cue and stand when she didn’t need to, but I needn’t have been even slightly concerned – she’s comfortable in synagogue now and knows what to do and when to do it.
Dd14 wanted to return for the evening services, so I went out to say goodbye to dh before I left. He came into the lobby and I told him how much I enjoyed it and wished I could stay for the rest of the time. He encouraged me to do that, but I felt I had given my word that I’d be back and didn’t want to be unreliable. But I did give in to his urging to stay to hear the rabbi’s talk, and it was amazing how he spoke about exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately!
To sum up, he said that G-d is incredible in His mercy, compassion, and love for us, and it’s unquestionable that He’s forgiven us for our wrongs. The real question is, can we forgive ourselves for our imperfections and mistakes? And he quoted a couple of phrases about freedom, and said that true freedom comes from forgiving ourselves. Really beautiful.
Unfortunately, someone said something to me during the speech that I was bothered by. As hard as I tried to refocus my thoughts on what the rabbi was saying, I wasn’t able to absorb much since I was distracted by a gnawing sense of irritation. Isn’t it at times when you feel the best that your biggest challenges come? So I was sent a very immediate test to my elevated frame of mind, and it was honestly challenging for me to appreciate it as the growth opportunity it was. Fortunately I had the entire walk home to reframe it and give the person the benefit of the doubt.
When I got home dd9, ds11, and dd14 went back to synagogue, while I played a couple of games with ds8. I’ve been focusing on consciously spending more time with him, and he really, really loves it. Ds4 and ds3 sat next to us and played with felt sets, which kept them happily occupied for awhile. It was a quiet and peaceful evening playing with all of them, and then dh and the kids came home and we broke our fast together.
I hope you had a positive day, as well!