This past week marked the end of a string of holidays/Holy Days, starting with Rosh HaShanah on September 24 (actually, starting earlier, with Selichot on September 20, for me, but for many observant Jews, the preparatory month of Elul before is part of the experience). Anyway, we finally wrapped it up, with the exuberant, music and dance-filled celebration of Simchat Torah, last Friday. The timing of the holidays this year meant a series of 4-day weekends, as Rosh HaShanah was on Thursday and Friday (outside Israel, Jews celebrate most holidays on two consecutive days). Yom Kippiur then fell on a Saturday, followed by Sukkot, which was another Thursday-Friday, and then last week, with Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, on Thursday and Friday.
I had made all the plans I needed to ahead of time to cancel clinics, and make sure that I had coverage for patient issues that might come up, but, by the end of this stretch of days that one is completely disconnected – no phone, no email, no checking clinical computers and updating labs, or filling medication refills for folks – it feels like a lot to take off another two days. Especially since my dear husband did not elect to observe these last two days ( his choice, no judgement here!). Anyway, I knew the weekend was complicated just a tiny bit extra by the anticipated arrivals of my cousins from California, who were stopping in DC on their way home from a trip to Europe. I would have loved to have bought all the food I needed for the next three days of holidays (including Shabbat on Saturday) before sundown on Wednesday night, but that just wasn’t a reality for me. Therefore, I knew that I would have to interrupt my observance of these closing holidays with at least one trip to the store, and some time on the phone or Internet to coordinate times with the arriving cousins. Which was fine.
The beauty of circumstance was that, on my shopping trip for groceries on Wednesday, I ran into a good friend, who, in the process of our quick chat in line at the checkout, reminded me that “It’s all about intention.”
Her words echoed with me through the ensuing days.
The next morning, Thursday, I watched husband and kids leave for work and school, and I then walked to the synagogue. The service was lovely, and I enjoyed the walk home. Once home, however, I had to put aside holiday/Holy Day mode, and get online to check for any word from my cousins, and also to make sure things at work were ok.
Thursday night, we had planned to take the boys to the evening service of Simchat Torah, which is fun for kids, with parading around with the Torah scrolls, but J was sick. I stayed home with him, and let Dad take S, since he was going to miss the bigger celebration the following morning at the synagogue. So, it was a quiet night for me. I was able to make contact with the cousins, and figure out logistics for the next day, and that was all good.
Friday morning, J was still sick, but S was fine, and he went off to the field trip they had both planned to go on, to the apple orchard (and pumpkin farm). I had to go to the synagogue, as I was one of the people chanting from the Torah during the service, so Dad stayed home with J to allow me to go without the complication of hauling along a sick and crabby child.
Again, I walked to the synagogue, and the walk, as always, put me immediately I. The mood of contemplation and prayer, and consciousness of the glory of the changing colors of leaves, and I was so happy to have this little window of holiday/Holy Day experience. After the joyful services, I walked home, and took over minding J, and preparing dinner for our guests. I knew I would be hopping in the car to pick them up from the metro station, and, yes, that did break the holiday/Holy Day experience, but it was with intention.
We had the loveliest dinner that night, with my cousins helping out with the preparations, and it was so lovely to get caught up on all the west coast doings, and share our lives (and our kids!). We had a rousing game of Uno, followed by Blokus with S, after J, still sick, wilted to bed (after a bit of tantrumming).
The next morning I was up early to give my cousins a lift to the airport. Thanks to P, who wanted to be sure and get there with plenty of time to spare, I was home again in time to change from sweats into nice clothes, and join the boys at shul. And again, I walked, and the weather was glorious and sunny. And, even with the early morning trip to the airport, I was again, immediately in Shabbat-mode thanks to the simple act of walking. In fact, I couldn’t help but sing to myself the children’s song “I’ve got that Shabbat feeling down in my reglayim (feet),”. Because it was true!
And now, all the fall holidays are done. The next holiday we have coming up is Hannukah, which is fun, certainly, but doesn’t hold the significance in the calendar that the recent holidays/Holy Days do. The next marathon session of holidays is in the spring – Passover. And, I’ll probably just about be ready to focus intensely by then.
Chag Sameach! Happy Holidays!