Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rosh Hashanah 5773

 If you are reading this on Facebook, slideshows and videos are often attached. Click on this live link to my blog: if you would like to get the full experience.

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, which almost always falls in September, feels more like a new year to me than the traditional Gregorian new year. For me, it is always an end to the freedom of summer scheduling. With teachers in the family, our wonderful vacations have mostly been in the summer. Saul and I have had the joy of spending many of our previous summers creating the memorable experiences of Camp Bubbie and Saba with our granddaughters. Once school begins, we settle into our new routines for the coming two semesters. We see our granddaughters, who have returned to their school-year schedules, only sporadically. The rush and preparations for the onslaught of a chain of Jewish holidays deflects the melancholy of losing the everyday contact with loved ones that existed during the summer, and softens the blow by creating multiple occasions for family interaction. I do love the holidays!

Saul and I have been consoling ourselves, reveling in our new-found, empty-nest freedom by eating out and shopping on the spur of the moment. When Ari came in for a weekend, we had a very enjoyable banquet dinner with our friends Betty and Jerry and Larry at Jasmine in Glenside. For our anniversaries, Jess and Alex’s sixteenth, and our forty-first, we finally got Ari over to Sushi Kingdom, where we all enjoyed the beautifully-prepared and delicious AYCE sushi and sashimi. Ari’s employer, KPMG, sent an ice cream gift to its employees over the summer, which he forwarded to us. We all enjoyed it together at a birthday Shabbat dinner here for Alex along with a carrot cake that Yona helped me bake. We also finally got to visit Tamarindos with Ken and Randi and Randi’s sister, Sherrie, who had told me she loves Mexican food. Those free, magical margaritas worked their spell on us, and Randi, Sherrie and I spent more time giggling and laughing than I can remember doing in many years. The incredible and imaginative food was an added bonus. Like me, neither of them experienced any headache or hangover after overindulging.  On Selichot evening, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant in Jenkintown with Faith, Larry, and friend and fellow congregant, Michael E., before heading over for a lavish dessert buffet at the synagogue. Rabbi Addison introduced and directed a congregational discussion which culminated with us collectively writing a bit of poetry called a pantoum about our congregation.

Jess and Alex’s new kitchen has been under construction all summer and was finally operational when all the water was hooked up just a couple of days before Rosh Hashanah. I felt great joy as I watched the whole family move around their new sleek and spacious kitchen to prepare, serve, and clean up the visually stunning meal that Alex had prepared for us. After all these years, they finally have a kitchen that is worthy of their talents.

During this past week, we kvelled as on Saturday morning, Jess beautifully chanted a particularly long and linguistically difficult haftarah in the main sanctuary of Temple Beth Sholom. Then, a few minutes later, Sami ably read Torah at the well-attended family service that Alex was conducting. We were joined for lunch at Jess and Alex’s by Ari, who drove in from DC for the long holiday weekend, and an old friend of Jessica’s from Temple Sinai days, Beth L., who drove in from New York. Alex, Jess and the girls shopped for and prepared all the food for the weekend and holiday which was augmented by beautiful produce from their CSA. Our meals were all dairy, as they had put away all their meat implements during the construction. Elaine made a challah, apple cake, and kugel, and I prepared challah, special, multi-colored, braided, round breads, and desserts. Jess had emailed a recipe to me for a peanut butter caramel apple galette that she was drooling over. I made it for us, but it is so much work, I will probably not make it again. I think that I can deconstruct it and it will be just as good in another easier format. We’ll see. On Sunday evening, erev Rosh Hashanah we were joined for dinner by Alex’s sister, Naomi, her husband, Matt, and their daughter, Talia. Ari drove us back and forth from Cherry Hill for our family meals, but the three of us attended our services at Melrose B’nai Israel Emanu-El. Our new facilities are under construction and, unfortunately, as each stage of construction waits for the completion of the previous stage, our bimah truly looked like a construction site. Fortunately, the warmth of the people in our congregation makes up for any deficiencies in ambiance.

Accordingly to our beliefs, a new year has now begun. The metaphor that guides our contemplation of our lives is that of a book that has opened in which our deeds are recorded and measured. The book in which we are inscribed will be sealed on Yom Kippur next week. Unlike the secular new year, which is welcomed with merriment, revelry and abandon, the Jewish new year is welcomed with thankfulness for our blessings, followed by fasting and contemplation to atone for our sins. We pray to be inscribed in the book of life for a fruitful and healthy year to come.

No comments: