There were hurricanes and earthquakes and rainstorms but somehow, for the celebration of Rosh Hashanah last week, the sun shone brilliantly as I made my way to the synagogue. The holiday is the beginning of the Jewish New Year, with worshipers asking for forgiveness for their sins and to be written in the Book of Life .
When I was a little girl, I went to my shul with my mom and dad for the New Year’s services. My father wore a tallis, which is a prayer shawl, and I remember how I would sit for hours, and he kindly let me braid its silky strings as I listened to the prayers and awe-inspiring music.
To this day, I feel the power of the prayers and the fervent praying and familiar embracing music. It’s a time for family, and this year I got to sit with my daughter Samantha, who knows I like to sit up close because then I don’t feel the immensity of the 4,000 people who are also praying with me.
Temple Sinai is the largest reform congregation on Long Island and when I’m sitting in the front, I cherish the intimacy with the rabbi and the cantor and the choir. I feel more connected to them sitting up front and hearing their words, prayers and songs.
Since my grandchildren pop in and out of the service, they sit in the back so they can anonymously disappear and reappear. I hope they heard the blast of the shofar (a ram’s horn), my favorite part of the service.
For me, it’s reflective time, an opportunity for staying in the moment to think about my life, both the good moments and the challenging ones, and to think of my path.
Here’s one of my favorite prayers, taking me into Yom Kippur where I repeatedly ask for forgiveness. My rabbi makes me feel like I can see the book slowly closing and my fervent prayers asking to be written in the book of life, repeating my plea over and over again throughout the day.
The prayer is actually the poem “Unetaneh Tokef,” a “wake-up call” of sorts. It states:
On Rosh HaShanah this is written; on Yom Kippur this is sealed:
How many will pass away from this world, how many will be born into it;
who will live and who will die;
who will reach the ripeness of age,
who will be taken before their time;
who by fire and who by water;
who by war and who by beast;
who by famine and who by drought;
who by earthquake and who by plague;
who by strangling and who by stoning;
who will rest and who will wander;
who will be tranquil and who will be troubled;
who will be calm and who tormented;
who will live in poverty and who in wealth;
who will be humbled and who exalted….
I like what one commentator wrote about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, that they “take care of the small, almost invisible choices of our lives. Rosh Hashanah reflects on our mission in life and Yom Kippur is about the details that will get us where we want to go and inspire our success.”
The other wonder of the holiday is being together with all my children and grandchildren. On Saturday of Yom Kippur, there is fasting from Friday night to sundown on Saturday. That is the day of my most heartfelt prayers to be asking to be written in the Book of Life. The culmination of Yom Kippur, is when the family gathers for a “break the fast” celebration, a wonderful time to cherish with loved ones.
May all of you reading this pray for yourselves, your families and those families who lost so much in the horrible hurricanes and the Mexico earthquake. May the new year be a better one for all.
One great debut
Madison Frankel of Little Neck and Roslyn was awarded high point rider for the day she made her Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) debut at Sagamore Hill Stables in Huntington, winning both Future Novice over fence class and flat. Sagamore Hill Stables and Coaches Lisa Kaplan, Omri Adut and Jen helped her succeed.