I do not first think of myself as Jewish when I defined myself. When I think about myself I am a mother. I am a dancer. I am a partner and a lover and a sister and a daughter and I am a friend. I am a writer. I am a mediocre piano player. But I do not think of Judaism. Of my Jewish self when I think about myself.
And yet each year I go to temple on these most holy of days. The New Year. A time of rejoicing and repentance. Of reflection and rebirth.
Often I go because I am with my family but just as often I go on my own. I find that I take myself there. A pull to be in this place during this most sacred time.
And I find that I am bored. I find that I am distracted. The words that are said aloud and whispered in silent prayer they do not resonate with me. The service starts and my mind, it instantly wanders. Because I just do not love this so much.
And so instead I will notice beautiful baby sitting across the aisle from me and this will entertain me for a few minutes. I will whisper and laugh with my niece and nephew, or my own children if they are with me, too. And definitely with my sister, when we are together to take in this day. And often I will wonder how many others in the synagogue have a wandering mind, as I do now.
But then we sing, nearly as beautifully and with as much spirit as the brilliant Barbara Streisand, this: Avinu Malkeinu.
Avinu Malkeinu. Our Father, Our King. The meaning of these words, they hold no power for me. But that we sing together in tender spirit, a resonance in minor keys, this is what I lean into.
I, once and often, sang this to my babies and they know this song before they knew it truly. Passed through my womb and more. I would sing to them as I rocked them to sleep, dancing slowly round the living room. Their sweet, soft breath just a whisper on my neck. My voice, melodic and whispered back in a response that settles in their heart. My babies know this song as I do.
And as I sing again each year I feel and see, in this room that we all come to be in, the constant sway of music that burst forth from everyone around me. A sea of movement and song. A collective consciousness from ancient times. A remembering.
Not of just the year before or many years before that, too. But of a deep past and a history connected together by verse after verse.
My soul knows this music. And it recognizes these others that are here with me on these days. In flesh and ghost. And this is why I go each year. To this place that I do not really like to be in. Because here I find that familiar spirit that lives in bones and fibers and ash. And here I find the longing to connect, even for this once a year time, to each other through these notes. Through the music in these chords. Through the stories in these chants and songs.
And it is with this spirit that springs alive in my heart that I wish a most happy of new years to all who celebrate these most holy of days. And love and kindness to all my friends and my family. L'shanah tovah. A good year.
9/21/2015 05:46:08 pm
I feel and have always felt the same. Traditional music-Jewish traditional music ensnares me-captures me and let's me go to a place that I have been to for thousands of years. Kol Nidre and Avinu Malkeinu make me strong
9/22/2015 12:48:18 pm
Lizzie(sorry to me that's how I always think of you) as I think you know I am not Jewish. Your writing is beautiful and poignant regardless of the religion! May you and the entire family have a wonderful year! Best, Barbie
9/23/2015 01:58:50 pm
Bob and Alba,
9/24/2015 07:53:15 am
boy did this resonate - beautifully stated
9/29/2015 07:49:49 am
I have read this a number of times, and it moves me each time
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Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Rower, Runner, Dog and Cat lover.