hmm, why do I hear crickets in the background....
Every year since I moved to this town I have gone somewhere different for High Holiday Services. This is a notoriously bad time of year to go shul-shopping, and yet it seems to be my pattern. On one hand, you have all the people like me who only go to services once a year because it would just feel too weird to not go. So the dynamic in the congregation can be not quite as representative as the dynamic the rest of the year. On the other hand, at the most holy time of year, I would expect (hope?) the Rabbi to be at the Top of his or her Game, so to speak. The most Inspiring, the most Passionate, the most Unifying,the most Uplifting.
For the past 6 years I have been disappointed. Which is probably not all that surprising considering my non-traditional experience of spirituality, my overall mistrust of organized religion, heck my "issues" with the very word "God".
Nonetheless each year at this time I find myself driven to continue my quest for The Perfect Spiritual Community, which I have to confess I don't really believe exists in this town. Well, let me rephrase myself. I believe there have got to be other like-minded people with whom I could share community, but I don't know where or how to find them.
This year, I have to say, I think I found something close. It's not a traditional congregation, per se - but a Fellowship - they don't have their own facility, it is run entirely by volunteers, and the Rabbi, from what little experience I have had with him to date, is GREAT! He's funny. He's a goofball. He is a passionate speaker, whose words pull and tug at the heartstrings. No papers to be read from, no standing on the pulpit. Just walking among the front of the room, pouring out bowls of passion to nourish a room full of hungry souls. And we devoured it hungrily and thankfully, with nodding heads and tear-filled eyes.
The prayer book was the traditional Reformed Jewish High Holiday prayerbook, which, eh, doesn't impress me so much. I got the impression from a few passing comments that the Rabbi is also not wholly impressed with it, but he did explain why he follows the tradition from those who have come before him, which I suppose I can appreciate.
There are a couple of Rosh Hashanah traditions that I never knew about growing up, which surprises me considering I grew up attending a Conservative Jewish Synagogue regularly and attended 5 years of Hebrew School 3 days a week. One of these traditions is Tashlich - the symbolic casting off of all the 'crap' accumulated over the past year into a body of water. I like the way Mel from Stirrup Queens described it this year.
And then we all sat down and thought about our year and what we didn’t want to bring with us into this next year. We squeezed those thoughts into rocks and threw the rocks towards the middle of the river.
I've got a lot that I don't want to bring with me into this new year. Wires and beeping machines in a hospital room, and a not-unconscious hand that didn't want to let go. An ultrasound probe in my vagina and a silent, unmoving blob. Loss. Death. Grief. Although Rosh Hashanah has passed, I am tempted to drag the J-Man and SchmoopyBaby out this coming Sunday to Lake Mead, or maybe to Red Rock if all the water isn't dry after a dismal monsoon season. Better late than never, right?
The other tradition that I can't believe I never heard of until I read about it on Stirrup Queens is eating a pomegranate. In all my 37 years, I had never heard of the concept of first fruits and eating a pomegranate at the end of the first day of Rosh Hashanah! What's up with that?! Hey Mom - why you holding out on me?! Mel described it like this back in 2007:
Tomorrow night, technically the second night of the holiday since it starts at sundown tonight, a pomegranate is served as the traditional first fruit. Some Jews believe that the pomegranate contains 613 seeds, the same number as commandments (or mitzvot) in the Torah. As much as we groove on those mitzvot as much as the next Jew, we eat pomegranates for a different reason. We’re trying to get pregnant.
You see, the pomegranate is a symbol of fertility, and eating pomegranates has been adopted by infertile women as a way to ensure good fertility in the coming year. Gee, this little tidbit of trivia couldn't have come at a better time!
Will eating a piece of fruit and throwing a rock into a river ensure that I achieve a healthy, successful pregnancy? My mathematician's brain tells me "No, don't be ridiculous". But will it give me hope? Will it give me healing? Will it give me comfort just knowing that I am doing something to pass the down the heritage of my now-dead father to my son?
And wouldn't it be worth it for that alone?