Almost 95% of Jews do something to observe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I want my kids to be part of this when they grow up, so the only way to do that is to model it for them now. Because it’s completely clear to me that people who believe in God are fundamentally more optimistic and more connected to community, and I want my kids to have that.
Also, I try not to work on the holidays because I want to be known, somehow, as a Jew who blogs about being Jewish. And if I’m going to do that, then I want to be known as someone who does not work on the holidays. It’s part of being Jewish, I think, to struggle with what to do on these days. So I want to struggle, too.
Every year it is hard for me to stay away from work, even when every year that I have worked has felt terrible. But even if I could feel okay working on these days, it’s not the person I want to be. Here's who I am right now: the person who just two years ago moved to a state I knew no one in, and then got a divorce. So I’m not exactly the queen of community right now. A holiday like Rosh Hashanah emphasizes this, but makes me more committed to fixing the problem.
This is also the time that I start gearing up for Yom Kippur, which comes in a week. Yom Kippur is about being sorry for not being nice to other people, so I try to fix as much as I can in the next week so I can be less sorry.
I think first of my not-quite ex-husband. And I cry. Maybe you didn’t think that I cry about the divorce. I didn’t ever start crying about it until he became a little nicer, which was once he was sure he was getting a divorce. He really wants a break from me. I’m not sure he totally hates me, but I am sure he totally hates being married to me.
But we have great moments, too. He came to the house for Rosh Hashanah. I usually leave the house to give him space to be with the kids. But he agreed that we could all eat dinner together for the holiday because he knows how important it is to me.
I cooked. Which I’m thinking is a primal instinct thing for someone you love. I mean, cooking is very easy to outsource, (since I outsource almost everything already) but it doesn’t feel right to me. I want to cook for people I’m close to. But it doesn’t feel right to do a primal-instinct-I-love-you-thing for the guy who wants a divorce, so I also bought sushi, which he really likes.
Then my not-quite-ex, who is not-quite-convinced that religion matters, said the prayers with us before dinner. Which almost made me cry.
Then, I said, “Oh. There’s a fly. We need a fly swatter.”
And he said, “You should hire one.”
And we both laughed.
That’s what made me cry.
We had a nice dinner, and then after dinner, I had to leave the house. Because the not-ex and I have a deal that he doesn’t have to have me around when he’s parenting. I think I make him nervous. Or I make him want to kill me. It’s a fine line, really.
So I left. Usually I love leaving. Because I work. I usually have phone meetings booked when I leave the house until midnight. But I didn’t want to work. I thought reading would be more appropriate. But I didn’t want to buy a latte at Starbucks and read there. I can’t be a self-respecting Jew and buy a latte on Rosh Hashanah.
So I sat in the car on a dark street and thought about work. I thought about what work I would most like to be doing instead of sitting in the car in the dark.
And here’s what I thought of: The three blog posts I owe to people who have been really nice to me. I have made three promises to write posts and broken all three of them.
One of the promises is more than a year old, to ERE. It’s a great organization because they are at the cutting edge of online recruiting. Actually one of the best speaking gigs I’ve ever had.
Then there’s the post for Tony Morgan. He’s a Christian blogger who reads this blog—I love that blogging helps me cross cultural lines to people who I wouldn’t normally come into contact with. I want him to know that I love being part of a Christian community when he links to me. (And I love watching how the Christians leverage the blogosphere to make being Christian interesting. Why can’t the Jews do that? Probably because we just blog about High Holiday guilt.)
The last one is that I owe Leo Babauta a blurb. He asked me to write one for the back of his new book that’s been sitting on my desk for a while. It is about to be the next thing that I’ve waited on so long that I have actually been inconsiderate.
So I decide that as soon as Rosh Hashanah ends, I’m going to write these three things. And write this post.
All this to say: you don’t need the Jewish holidays in order to learn something about yourself. Force yourself to isolate for a day. Don’t allow yourself to do all the usual things. You will learn something about yourself. It’s impossible not to.