Little Miss and I visited two temples last Shabbat, one on Friday evening, one on Saturday morning. Both were Tot Shabbat services. Little Miss enjoyed both, but I have an early favorite.
I still plan to go to a variety of events at both temples to get a good understanding of what both have to offer.
Autumn is a time of lots of Jewish holidays all lumped together. I have been making an effort to celebrate Jewish holidays and start new traditions for the kids’ sake, so we’ve been doing quite a bit recently. Maybe this will be the year we join a synagogue, but for now it’s all been at home.
(For the uninitiated: Shabbat is the weekly Sabbath, from Friday evening to Saturday during the day.)
We’ve been saying the blessings over candles, wine, and bread on and off for a few years, but for the past few months we have been doing it consistently every week. Every week I print out a summary of the week’s Torah portion and a related essay to discuss at dinner. I also print out a couple coloring pages, which Little Miss sometimes colors, sometimes not. I receive a weekly newsletter from one of the websites which helps me remember to prepare for Shabbat. Personally, I have also been trying not to do as much “work” on Shabbat and instead to focus on spending time with the family. The concept of Shabbat as an oasis during the week, to relax and refresh has cut down my stress level somewhat.
(2) Rosh Hashanah (New Year)
We said the blessings and ate the traditional apples and honey (for a sweet new year) and a few days later shared a pomegranate.
We attempted to perform Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah – the idea is a “washing away” of sins so you go down to a river or lake and say some blessings. Some people throw bread crumbs in the water represent a “casting off” of sins. I got Little Miss all excited about throwing breadcrumbs in the water, and the we went down to the local stream. I thought, surely there will be at least a trickle of water this time of year, but no. It was bone dry. So we did this two weeks later (I read that you have until Sukkot to do it) and we went farther upstream and there was a good flow of water there. Little Miss and I walked from the house on a Saturday morning, just the two of us, and it was quite pleasant. We also brought a snack and Little Miss (as usual) insisted on throwing rocks in the water.
(4) Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
We said the blessings and read an essay at dinner. There’s not much fun stuff here for kids. I did not fast – I didn’t want to jeopardize Little Mister’s nursing in any way – but I did try to avoid “fun” foods. Little Miss had a huge tantrum that afternoon, which was perhaps appropriately humbling for me.
(5) Sukkot (Harvest Festival)
We were somewhat unprepared for Sukkot but I wanted to build a Sukkah anyway. It is constructed out of a table turned on end. Our sukkah is about 90% kosher, in my estimation. It is ridiculously small and it was pretty hot outside so we didn’t eat in it, but we did all cram into after dinner it for the blessing and a bite of dessert. We used birds-of-paradise stalks for the roof of the sukkah, and for dinner we had (among other things) pesto sauce made from basil harvested from our garden. This year basil is the only edible we are growing in our yard. Next year I hope to have more. I am also thinking about putting some bamboo in our backyard (appropriately sequestered to prevent spreading) so perhaps we will be able to build a bigger sukkah next year!
Little Miss is old enough, and I keep meaning to look into Tot Shabbat services at various synagogues in the area. After Rosh Hashanah, for real this time! This will be the year we join a synagogue.
A couple weeks ago we had a Jewish baby naming ceremony for Little Miss. Even though a special ceremony for girls isn’t “traditional” (only for boys) I felt good about how this connects our family to Jewish tradition and the Jewish community. And I was happy to be able to share our new daughter with friends and family. The ceremony & reception afterward were a huge success!
Went to High Holy Day services again this year, as I do every year. I don’t belong to a synagogue so I went with Friend K to hers and was welcomed warmly by her friends there. The High Holy Days always serve as a motivation for introspection and continued growth for me. It always serves as a strong reminder of why exactly I included in my personal mission statement the goal to maintain ties with Judaism to ground me in morality and community.
This year, what struck me (by way of some of the prayers and sermons) was that I have become a little withdrawn from the outside world. I have been spending the past few years focusing a lot on personal growth (as evidenced by all my 43T activity.) There’s nothing wrong with that, but while I have been making all sorts of progress on avoiding certain sins like jealousy, arrogance, deceit, etc., I have continued to engage in the sin of indifference to injustice. (It’s kind of an eye-opener to think of indifference as a sin rather than just “laziness”, but Judaism considers it so.)
I generally avoid watching/reading news on worldwide current events, because they’re often so depressing. But one of the sermons on Yom Kippur discussed the fact that we often blind ourselves to these things, avoid thinking about them, because we think there’s nothing we can do about them. But as we’ve heard time and again, “one person can make a difference,” and the sermon almost has me convinced :-)
In addition, I haven’t really gotten involved in my local community. Part of it is that I feel like I’m not settled down yet, so why put in the effort to integrate myself into the community when I’ll just be moving soon anyway? For me, meeting new people and doing new things really is a big effort. But, now I know I’ll be moving really soon (like, in the next couple months, hopefully) so maybe this attitude can change soon.
Now I feel like I am approaching a state in my personal growth where I almost “have it all together” and can afford to focus attention outward. So, my hope / goal for the next year is to focus on the following aspect of my personal mission statement:to seek a positive impact on my world, my community, my friends, my family, and myself.
a few friends came, but my brother was the only other Jew there. I am glad that I managed to keep up with my Jewish traditions, but not doing so well in terms of connecting with others in the Jewish community.
I think it will help if I send out invitations more than a week ahead next time, so at least my Jewish friends won’t already have seder plans.
I’m putting a reminder in Google Calendar right now.
Will have to remember to pick up some challah and say the blessings.
Also, Purim is next week so maybe I should make some hamentaschen this weekend.
Totally forgot about Shabbat dinner/blessings this week. I was thrown off by the fact that I had the day off from work…
last Friday, and managed to catch the second half of the Shabbat service while I was at it. It’s comforting to know that I can go to any given reform synagogue and recognize most of the elements of the service.
I talked to my friend K, and she said that if I were to start looking for a synagogue to join, she’d be willing and interested in coming along with me to check them out. I ought to take her up on that.