Let me begin by saying the weekend was a smashing success and I had a really good time on the Mississippi River cruise Saturday night. It was a picture perfect evening: balmy temperature, an almost full moon, Summit Red Ale, and lots of laughter. No one to dance with, but it turned out to be okay. The kiddies dancing away on the upper desk had a really good time, too. And gee, wasn’t that the point? Oh, yeah; I should probably admit that I wore a black dress. It was cute. No babushka, though.
Now, on to the more serious business for today: the coming of Rosh HaShannah.
When I was a kid, the High Holidays always meant a couple of new dresses and a pair of shoes that were never broken-in enough for the mile-plus walk to shul. The first day of the holiday was synonymous with heel blisters. Despite that, I really loved the walk, though. I loved to stop on the bridge over the parkway and count cars with my dad and brother. It was as much a part of the ritual of Rosh HaShannah as the sneezing from the goldenrod that grew everywhere. You walked with your family, even if your best friend’s family was walking 10 feet ahead of you, and somehow, you didn’t mind so much.
Once you got to shul, however, any thought of staying with the family disappeared. Knots of kids hung around on the front lawn….usually looking for fallen chestnuts still in their spiny shells. Older kids sat on the metal staircase on the side of the building. Boys chased boys, girls screeched, and adults shook their collective heads, but still managed to smile at all these remarkable signs of life. You see, this was in the 50s and 60s, not all that much after we learned about the ovens of Auschwitz and Dachau.
I think getting ready for the High Holy Days was a much different experience for our parents and grandparents. They were still trying to come to some sort of terms with the death and destruction that was the Holocaust. We children were not unaware. We knew. I think I was six the first time I heard the name Eichmann. And we knew we were special because we were born, we lived, we breathed, and perhaps most importantly, we laughed. Not a day went by when we were not reminded that we were lucky to be alive and Jewish in America.
Getting ready for Rosh HaShannah this year, I wonder how much of that appreciation of being alive and Jewish in America has been retained, and how much has been squandered. As parents, did we do enough to instill in the boys the need to cherish the freedom that they have? Have they retained enough of their Jewish education to make wise choices in their observance of mitzvot? I have to acknowledge that as much as I would like to know the answers to those questions, I really do not know how to ask them without it sounding intrusive, which is not the intent. I only want to be reassured that they know they are the inheritors of a line that goes back to that moment at Sinai when we all signed on the dotted line.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but this year, I definitely need to take a turn inward to take a read of where I am and where I am going. I’ll let you know if I figure it out.
Tip of the Week
Always break in your shoes before Rosh HaShannah.