My Rosh Hashana Ah-Ha Moment

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Plamen Stoev


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My expectations for Rosh Hashana this year were lower than low.

I expected it to be a 3-day festival of bored kids, chronic indigestion, a Mt. Kilimanjaro of dirty dishes in BOTH sinks, and floors that were already sticky and black 2 hours into this year’s 72 hour Chag-Shabbat extravaganza. And with a newborn and a high-maintenance 3-year-old, escaping my disaster-zone house by going to shul for any significant stretch of time seemed unlikely at best.

But in the end, a miracle occurred. Hashem blessed me with the most phenomenal Rosh Hashana of my life.

Rabbi Nivin had explained in our pre-Chag Personal Development Chabura that the key to a meaningful Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is focusing on the “Ah-ha” moments of our lives. Reflecting on those rare blips of time when we have felt total clarity about the purpose of life.

And that was the key to my Rosh Hashana miracle.

This Rosh Hashana, I remembered the first Ah-Ha moment of my life. I was 21-years-old, newly religious, and feeling like becoming Orthodox was a radical betrayal of my family’s tradition of political, social, and religious liberalism which I had drunk in with my mother’s milk. Maybe my friends were right; maybe I actually had been sucked in by a cult?

And then the phone rang, and I had what would turn out to be my final conversation with my grandmother before she passed away the following month. My grandmother told me that, in fact, I wasn’t the first member of our family to keep kosher. Her parents had also kept kosher. In fact, her own father had grown up in a family of Lubavitcher Chassidim in the Ukraine.

When I got off the phone, I felt like the ceiling of my parent’s living room and the Baltimore sky opened up, and I could see Heaven itself. And I understood for the first time in my life that Hashem had actually been guiding me all along, through my 9 years at a Quaker school, and my 3 years at a Congregationalist college in Maine, as well as through my months wandering through Russia and Indonesia and finally Israel.

Hashem had been leading me through those years of spiritual darkness so that I would finally return, not to a cult, but rather to the beloved tradition of my ancestors.

And I also remembered another Ah-Ha moment this Rosh Hashana which took place 12 years after that earthshaking phone call. I had gone on a long walk with my baby, Moriah, one Shabbat, and on the way home I sat on a park bench in an isolated playground. For some reason, I closed my eyes, and out of nowhere I saw all sorts of colors swirling around like a psychedelic sandstorm.

Again, just as I had felt after that final conversation with my grandmother, I sensed the Heavens opening up and I understood with every cell in my body that I am just one link in a millenia-long chain of Jewish mothers. I understood that ever since Abraham and Sara walked the earth, not far from where I sat that day, Jewish mothers had withstood threats of torture, execution, Crusades, Inquisitions, pogroms, the gas chambers. But nothing in the world could make them let go of their sacred Jewish tradition or their belief in the One and Only God.

And that afternoon, I swore that I too would be a strong link in that distinguished chain. I understood sitting on that park bench that there was nothing more important that I could do in the whole world than raise children who would love the Torah and believe in that same God to whom my great-grandmother, and my great-great grandmother, and my great great great grandmother had prayed.

So this Rosh Hashana, with tears streaming down my face, I rededicated myself to my Ah-Ha lessons. I committed myself to 3 things:
-To being aware that my life and everything that happens to me is directed by Hashem
-To raising children who are good and committed Jews
-To raising children who know that Hashem runs the world

What a blessing. What a privilege. What a daunting Rosh Hashana assignment for a lifetime.
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One comment

  1. Beautiful. Gmar Chatima tova.

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