Today is the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah (as was last night and as is tomorrow--we loooove us some 3-day holidays, people). I love Rosh Hashanah--for me it stirs up memories of crushing fall leaves under my shiny black Mary Janes on the walk to synagogue, the smell of brisket cooking for 15 hours, braiding the fringe from my grandfather's prayer shawl as I sat next to him for hours on end in the sanctuary and the rich tenor voice of my father singing beside me as the torah was placed back in the ark. Vivid, woven-into-the-fiber-of-my-being type memories that make up my sense of spirituality and religious identity perhaps even more than any sense of a direct relationship with a higher power. Tevye didn't sing about "tradition" for nothing, you know?
As Ethan gets older, I am looking forward to creating traditions and memories with him as well. He already goes to a Jewish preschool, so he's been talking about the shofar for days now because, please. You blow into it and it makes a crazy noise. And the guy who blows into it turns bright red and omigoditssocool, mom!
So I was excited today to take Ethan to the temple's family services--the kid-friendly service which I imagine takes a special kind of rabbi (and by "special kind" I mean either abundantly patient and kind-hearted or heavily sedated) to perform. A sanctuary full of other peoples' kids, baby through kindergarten? Next year I will prepare by bumming a Xanax off of someone. Maybe I'm kidding. Likely, I'm not.
Before we took part in the "listen to the stories and sing the songs if you want....or if not, writhe on the floor screaming or chase random other kids through the aisles" service, Ethan decided that he needed a haircut. Which broke my heart just a tiny little bit. But its his hair, so if it's making him crazy and he wants it cut, what can I do? sigh.
I snapped a few pictures before heading out to the kid's hair place:
This is where I usually freak out, change my mind and say, "just a tiny little trim, okay?! Like a quarter of an inch!" And then pay $25 for my child to walk out of the salon looking exactly the same as he did when he walked in.
I have no idea what he's doing here. I spent most of the services, when I wasn't twitching over the preschoolers who were writhing on the floor and kicking their siblings, simply trying to process how different Ethan looks now rather than figuring out what he was actually doing.
Shortly after this, on what had to have been a sugar crash from the tootsie-pop the stylist gave him after his cut, Ethan fell apart and spent the rest of the services on my lap, alternately telling me he wanted to go and wanted to stay to hear the shofar, which, like the weather report on the 11 o'clock news, is always last because it's the biggest draw.
I may have led him astray at one point when I encouraged him to join the other little children at the edge of the bimah (which is our word for altar) when the ark was opened. So lovely to see all the kids gather around and watch in awe as the rabbi hoists the open Torah up over her head for all to see. Except my kid translated, "go on ahead up there" as "Go, up ONTO the bimah, stand next to the person holding the Torah and then realize you are the only one up there with her, freak out in absolute horror at being in the wrong place and then cry inconsolably for 10 minutes. Note to self: next time, you might want to be a *bit* more specific with your vague-ass "go up there" instructions. Super. Nothing like a little embarrassment trauma to really make the New Year special.
After that, though, we were all about listening to the shofar, in all its Tekiah, Sheverim, Teruah and Tekiah gedolah glory (those are the four different sounds made with the shofar and they are pretty cool, if I can pull a serious Jewish girl geek-out and say that). The final note of Tekiah gedolah is held until the person with the shofar is beet red and just this side of losing consciousness, so of course the kids think that is the coolest thing ever.
And once the shofar is sounded, it was outside for some apples and honey, symbolizing the sweetness of the New Year:
Later in the afternoon we headed to our friends' house for dinner, which was fabulous (read: I had a lot of wine and Ethan ran around with his friend, fell down and bit his lip bloody, stuffed a few noodles in his mouth, freaked out at the idea of eating anything called tzimmes or kugel, and ran around with his friend some more until we were all completely exhausted).
We're a long ways off from having established traditions for ourselves, and honestly a part of me grieves a little bit that we live so far from family and that Ethan will likely never sit next to his grandfather during Rosh Hashanah services, braid the tassels of his prayer shawl and hear his voice singing in prayer--the things that truly resonate with me and my memories of this day throughout my childhood. But I hope that going with services with him today was a step in the right direction for him and will lead us eventually to our own sense of tradition as a family.