It is well known that the High Holidays are often referred to as the Days of Awe. A less common, though equally fitting name for this solemn time is ‘the Days of Playing Candyland and Spreading Cream Cheese on Crackers (Because Shul is Very Long)’. And that more or less sums up the heights of spirituality that I reached over Rosh Hashana.
With all the prep behind us, there were only two major jobs left for the Jewish New Year itself. Someone needed to pray for our souls and someone needed to watch the children. And since I am awesome at playing cards while simultaneously arbitrating over who had it first, and my husband is a rock star at not falling asleep in shul, these jobs divided themselves quite naturally along traditional gender lines.
Despite being so very grateful for my lot this holiday, and despite how well my children did in the shul play room with its Lord of the Flies motif, there was a part of me that wished I could have spent the day in quiet prayer and contemplation. So towards the end of the morning I handed out snack bags to my boys and sent them to sit next to their father. I then explained the weightiness of the day to my 15 month old daughter, and confident that she understood, I carried her into the back of the shul in time for the last series of shofar blows.
As quickly as I could, in the moments building up to the sounding of the shofar, I began to take stock of my life. Instantly I was overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude, vulnerability, humility, shame, and hope. I knew that I had to pack two days’ worth of prayer into the next few minutes and I was cognizant that I was seizing the moment. And as the first ‘tekiah’ sounded, from somewhere in my spiritual zenith, I was summoned back to Earth by a most unmistakable grunt and odor. Apparently my daughter had failed to fully grasp the significance of the situation. I had used the quiet and calm to reflect and pray, and she had used it to take care of some more physical business. The sound of the shofar will from now on carry both auditory and olfactory associations.
And as I rushed out of the sanctuary and back into the playroom (where it was only mildly surprising to see children in war paint chasing a wild pig) I had no choice but to laugh. Clearly the Creator has a sense of humor. I was looking for transcendence and forgiveness, and I was given poop and fodder for a blog. And when you think about, isn’t that exactly what I needed?
This Rosh Hashana I was reminded that I am uniquely qualified to care for the children who have so generously been placed in my care, and that job, while often unglamorous, makes me certain that I am here for 4 very specific reasons. Not bad for a day’s work. And if you count the two homemade honey jars I received from my preschoolers, I’d say this year is already off to an excellent start. Bring it on, Yom Kippur.