With the completion of our celebration of Rosh Hashanah, Adam and I have officially celebrated all of the Jewish holidays here in Israel. Last year at this time, Adam and I were bouncing from my parent’s house to his father’s house trying to spend as much time with family as we could before the big move. We spent Rosh Hashanah at my grandmother’s house at which a large portion of my family comes together for the festive meals. We had a meaningful time with them all, and then right before Kol Nidre, we got on the plane to come to Israel. It is amazing that it has been about a year since we moved here (I say “about” because the Gregorian date was September 24th) and that it is less than a year until our time here in Israel is done.
It is difficult to determine if experiencing Rosh Hashanah in Israel was different than I expected since I’m not sure what I expected. I didn’t have much time to think about what to expect in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Why? Our newborn baby has been my priority these last few weeks. As we got closer and closer to Rosh Hashanah, it just barely showed up on my radar mainly because my radar doesn’t work quite as well when I only get a few hours of sleep a day. I knew that having a baby would change my prayer experience, but this Rosh Hashanah really made me understand how much that has changed.
The fact that Rosh Hashanah snuck up on me was enabled by the fact that we were away for the entire holiday. If that wasn’t the case, I would have been focused on it earlier as we tried to plan meals. It was actually really nice that we didn’t have to prepare any meals because we were still adjusting to life as parents, and while I am proud to say that I am back to cooking, I’m not sure I could handle cooking for two days of chag and Shabbat. Not surprisingly, if we hadn’t already been invited away, so many people in our community in Jerusalem invited us for meals that I’m not sure if I would have really had to cook at all. People here are absolutely wonderful! Instead we went to Beit Shemesh to be with Ilana and Yoni Rosensweig and their family. Yoni is the brother of our good friend Elisha who, along with his wife Anat, have shown up a bunch of times in this blog since they are really great friends who have helped us so much with our adjustment to life in Israel. Ilana has also been mentioned recently since she was our awesome doula. Knowing how stressed I was about possibly giving birth on Rosh Hashanah, Ilana invited us to be with them for the holiday. We were glad to accept. We always wanted to see Beit Shemesh (we thought about living there at one point), we wanted to get to know this part of the Rosensweig clan a bit better, and I felt a lot better that if I went into labor on the holiday, at least Ilana was already with us. Who knew that we would be coming with a 4 week old baby instead! Life is full of surprises!
Adam and I had a wonderful time in Beit Shemesh. The Rosensweigs were very hospitable. Ilana and Yoni have 5 kids so they were very understanding when Adina decided to be fussy and would cry a bunch (and when I say a bunch, I really mean a lot! She decided to go through a growth spurt over the holiday!). Ilana was really amazing; while taking care of her own kids who range from the age of almost 2 to almost 12, she helped with Adina too. She would hold her so that Adam and I could eat, she would remind me to go to bed when she was finally asleep at the end of dinner, and much more. The kids were really great too! They each have a distinct personality, and we really enjoyed getting to know them. They were all so good with the baby, even their youngest. They would check on her and let us know if she was awake, and one of them liked to sing songs to her. Everyone was so sweet!
When we weren’t eating and hanging out with the Rosensweigs, we were at synagogue. The synagogue we went to was across the street and is where Yoni is a community rabbi. The people we met there were really nice. A lot of them spoke English which made me feel more comfortable. Most of those that talked to me were interested in knowing more about Adina, which I kind of expected. Who can resist being interested is someone so little and adorable! A lot of the younger women there seemed to be taking care of babies or little kids so I felt like one of the group. It is amazing how quickly people bond over children!
The prayer experience this year was definitely different. I usually go to services with Adam, who always aims to be there when they start, but Adina needed to eat so I ended up heading over later when she was ready. Rosh Hashanah services are quite long, so even though Adina needed attention during them, I was still able to spend a decent amount of time praying. Because of the way the synagogue was organized, it was difficult to bring the stroller in where I was sitting, so I ended up holding Adina as she slept for most of the service. She hadn’t yet reached the weight minimum for the Baby Bjorn that we have, so I had to hold her in my arms. I was able to get through a good number of the prayers, but my focus wasn’t entirely there. I was constantly looking at her to see if she was waking up or trying to calculate how much more of a particular section of the service there was and if I could finish it before she needed to eat. I tried not to be too hard on myself about my lack of focus since taking care of my child is my number one priority right now.
I have to admit, the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, I started to feel anxious about the approaching holiday season. This is the time of year when reflection and repentance are very important. Not taking the time to think about the past year and identify areas for improvement seems problematic with the day of judgement (Rosh Hashana) and day of atonement (Yom Kippur) fast approaching. I struggled to accomplish this spiritually important task since it is hard to sit down and really reflect when you are tired from getting up every 1.5-2 hours the night before or when you are anticipating the next feeding. Adam and I discussed my anxiety over this before we went to Beit Shemesh, and we talked about how I just need to do my best and that taking care of Adina is what Hashem would want me to do. I hope that we are right. I continued to try to think about ways to improve myself the week leading up to Yom Kippur. It may not be as much reflection as usual, but something is better than nothing.
Rosh Hashanah led right into Shabbat, which means that we all had three days straight of holiday mode. After all the eating and praying from Rosh Hashanah, we felt the need to be on the move a bit more, so we spent about an hour and a half on Shabbat afternoon going for a walk as a family. Adina slept through our wanderings around Beit Shemesh, but Adam and I got a chance to see what the neighborhood was like. It was a very quiet afternoon, and we were enamored by all the trees, flowers, and cute houses that lined the streets. We definitely got that suburban experience that we have really been missing from home!
Our time in Beit Shemesh was a great way to start the New Year. We got to explore a new part of Israel, meet knew people, and get more accustomed to holiday celebrations with a baby. Even though I felt less focused than previous years, my reflections have shown that I have grown considerably over this past year, and while there are many ways in which I can improve, I have to say that this year has had many positives to it. I look forward to this next year and hope that it is filled with love, happiness, and blessing for everyone!
Until next time…