I Only Went to Shul to Hear the Shofar

When I first became observant, I was struck by the way the Jewish year fulfilled all these different emotional needs–spinning you from grief to introspection to repentance to joy, giving you tastes of big emotions. The seasons were like spices, and in those days Rosh Hashanah tasted like being honest with myself, like staring up into the face of a giant I couldn’t see, like the high near the end of a run, right before the final stretch. Yom Kippur tasted like stream of consciousness, like my soul was clinging to my body with one finger, like I was free and clear, like running across the finish line and collapsing into a proud, tired starfish, breathing hard and clean.

Last year was a little different–after a hard first trimester, I was a little weary, and a bit deflated. But I remembered the taste of Rosh Hashana, and I listened to a few shiurim, and I breathed in that intoxicating spice and tried to center myself around what was important.

This year, my baby had a cold all week, and her frequent nighttime wakings became constant. I barely got any cooking done (or sleep). My house was a category five wreck. Rosh Hashanah wasn’t so much a spice as it was a weak, watery tea. It was all I could do to drag the stroller to shul to hear shofar after davening was finished, or to clear the table for dinner. The only learning I did during Elul was a paragraph that one of my friends wrote on Facebook. On Yom Kippur, I’ll be lying in bed, trying to entertain my baby without having to get up, and praying that my milk supply stays solid.

Sometimes, being a mom makes the small things big, and the big things disappear. I never thought that watching TV uninterrupted for 30 minutes while I fold laundry would feel like coming up for air. I never thought that getting four hours of sleep in a row would be a luxury (well I did, but I never thought it would still be a luxury as my baby nears six months old). Sometimes, wishing I could stay in bed (who am I kidding? often staying in bed anyway), as a single woman I would think of the women home with their children Saturday morning instead of putting on tights and going through the endless sit-stand-sit-stand of shul, and feel a wash of jealousy.

I’m not jealous now of women who can make it to shul–I feel lucky to be a mom to such a bubbly, thoughtful baby. I think I just wish that I could do something with my free time besides sleep. Could I have done more to bring back the taste of Rosh Hashanah? Could I have cleaned the house, made fancier food, been a better mother, a better wife? I couldn’t have done all of those things. It’s hard to pick and choose.

I can only hope that next year will be smoother, I’ll learn more tricks, my baby will grow and change (easier in some ways and harder in others), but my relationship with HaShem will only deepen.

Gmar chatima tovah!

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