Connecting emotionally with Rosh Hashana prayer service

I had such a nice Rosh Hashana!  What made it especially nice was that for the first time in several years, I was able to daven (pray) at shul for the entire mussaf service on the first day.  I’m not a person who does much formalized prayer – I talk to G-d throughout the day but that’s mostly it.  So you wouldn’t think that this being in shul for hours in formalized prayer would really resonate with me.

When I was younger, I found the High Holiday services long and tedious.  I frequently was looking at the clock and counting how many pages were left until the end.  I just didn’t connect with the importance and intensity of the days of Rosh Hashana.  But as you get older and your children get older, you have more and more understanding of how important this time of year is.  I used to wonder how women much older than  me could stand for so long during the prayer service, and now I what I think is that they had a deep connection to the seriousness of what Rosh Hashana is, and for them, now could they count pages of their prayerbook or think about what time they need to warm up the food for it to be ready for the lunch meal when there’s so much at stake?

This year, I gave a class on Shabbos about how to develop a mindset for Rosh Hashana.  One thing I shared in the class was that we need to approach G-d with humility that comes from the understanding that absolutely everything comes from Him and that we literally have nothing and are nothing without Him.  When we really understand at a deep emotional level that G-d is determing the fate of all mankind and particularly for me and my family for the coming year on Rosh Hashana, it totally changes the prayer experience.

I thought a lot about how everything that has happened to us in the last year was decreed a year before.  One of those was especially wonderful – the birth of our baby, which I feel was like winning the lottery.  The likelihood of having a baby with T21 at my age was only one in 250, and I hit the jackpot!  I really mean that seriously; I feel so lucky and privileged to have this baby that I don’t have the words to express it.

Another of those things was extremely difficult and painful, and last year I was blissfully ignorant of what was hanging over my head and being determined for me on Rosh Hashana.   It was a growing experience that I don’t want to go through again and I really begged G-d not to send me tests like this!  Most things fall somewhere in the middle between these two extremes.  Keeping all of this in mind made supplication for a good year very much a practical and prudent rather than theoretical thing to do.

If you’re wondering why I only mentioned one prayer service, that’s because the reality of my life didn’t allow for more than that plus the mandatory shofar blowing.  The second morning I had to really let go of my desire to stay at shul and recognize that my task at that time was to be at home and take care of the people who needed me.  It’s much harder to feel spiritual and lofty in this situation, but I kept reminding myself that I need to do what G-d puts in front of me and remember that’s what He wants me to do.


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