Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yom Kippur -- a day of reflection

Yom Kippur in Efrat was ... different - but not in a bad way. Just different from what I'm used to. One major difference was that I was not suffering through a fast day during a sweltering Miami Autumn. Plus in Israel - they change the clock before Yom Kippur in order to shorten the fast. How cool is that? The other major difference is what I did - or rather did not do - on the holiest day of the year. For the last 6 years I have managed to work out child care for the High Holy Days between youth groups in Shul and non-Jewish babysitters. In Israel, most shuls do not have groups and it is pretty difficult to find a non-Jewish babysitter that you would trust with your kids. So I knew in advance that much of my Yom Kippur service to Hashem would be servicing my own kids. Still, I could not fathom not going to Shul for Kol Nidre and so like many other moms, I went to Shul too. Then I spent the remaining two hours wondering why I had. I had made peace with the idea that I did not have a requirement to daven like my husband did. I had made peace with the idea that it was more important for me to take care of my children then to daven. I had come to understand that my husband's davening would count for me, which was a bit counterintuitive after being raised in a society that espouses equality between sexes. Yet, for some reason I had to go. I did catch a few notes of Kol Nidre before joining the chorus of children in the nearby playground. It made me nostalgic and I felt at home. Was that a reason to go? I watched the other mothers, many of whom were in the makeshift women's section in the lobby next to the door to the men's section. It was filled with women who could not make it into the real Women's section with their children but wanted to be part of the service none-the-less. The women were struggling to daven while holding babies and feeding children. Don't get me wrong - this was not a pitiful scene - it was quite beautiful and everyone was joyful. Only I could not figure out what to do with myself. Should I struggle too? If I made my daughter sit on my lap while I tried to get a few words out to Gd, would it even matter? If I do not have a requirement to pray and my husband's prayers count for me, then why should I bother? If my prayers do make a difference and I can impart a better year for all of us, than what am I doing outside the Shul in the first place? So there I stood, or rather sat , in a no-man's land - listening to the prayers, but with my daughter in my hands instead of a siddur. I loved the experience no less. When I was putting my kids to bed that night I thought about my tzadeket friend who told me with great joy how she had got up at 6 am on Rosh Hashana so that she could daven quietly and then be ready to start with the kids at 8. I thought about going downstairs to do some praying or meditating of my own once the kids got to sleep. I thought about it and I thought about her. And then I got up and went to sleep! Luckily, my husband parts easier with sleep than I do and he woke up at the early hour of 4:50 am. in order to go to the early Minyan so that I could catch the last hours of Musaf in the regular Minyan. I did enjoy Musaf immensely and I had to admit that 2 hours in Shul was easier than 6! I briefly cringed at the thought of not going to Neila, but had a most meaningful Neila service at home with the kids. I got to hear what THEY wanted to ask Hashem as Yom Kippur was coming to an end! So all in all it was a sweet way to start the year, though I'm still not sure what it is exactly that I did most of the day!
  I hope your Yom Kippur was meaningful, whatever way you spent it! May all of our prayers be answered for the best!

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