When you think “High Holy Days” what do you feel?
High Holy Days usher in a wide range of emotions for Jewish people. Some are looking forward to the solemn yet joyful services, seeing everyone at shul, gathering with the “usual crowd” for a special meal, going to tashlich and Breaking the Fast. Others dread what they perceive to be the depressing message of Yom Kippur, the fast (or the expectation that one will fast), the hot synagogue sanctuary, the Vidui (the confessional prayer), and the longer than usual services.
Many a Jew is annoyed at the demands of the holidays. But who is making these demands? Typically, we are making them on ourselves. But it is much easier to project them onto someone else. “My rabbi expects everyone to come to services,” “my spouse wants me to go with him/her,” “my parents expect me to set an example for my kids.” Some of these may be true, some we are simply sure that others are thinking.
What to do about this? First, it is essential that you figure out what you want to do and what you feel obligated to do. Then figure out why you feel obligated and is it a good thing or a bad thing? As a parent I feel obligated to feed and clothe my children. I feel obligated to stay home with them when they are sick. As a spouse I feel obligated to spend time with my husband, to be an ear when he is troubled, to stand together with him when we are dealing with a challenging child. As a friend I feel obligated to make time to see my friends, to help them when they are sick or worried, to celebrate and mourn with them. My parents are dead. So I am no longer obligated to visit them, write letters, make phone calls.
I embrace my obligations to my children, spouse and friends. Frankly, I wish I still had my parents; I would welcome the responsibilities of that relationship.
Can you sort out which obligations you feel as a Jew – or a partner of a Jew – and determine which you embrace and which you find irritating? Until you really know what it is you want to do and don’t want to do and why, you won’t be able to make peace with the holiday or yourself. I invite you to join me this coming Sunday morning in Pleasanton at Beth Emek for: The High Holidays… Do I Want to or Do I Have to?
If you can’t make it but want to talk, just shoot me an email or give me a call.