Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins Wednesday night. This year’s holiday will be a little different for me. This year, instead of sitting quietly in a sanctuary, focusing on my past year and looking ahead to the new one, I’ll be singing and dancing with my husband and our two-year old in the toddler’s service with other families.
Last year we went to shul (synagogue), but with a baby in tow we didn’t get to really immerse ourselves in the liturgy and engage with the texts. I was surprised to find that I felt a spiritual void. I really missed the chance to sit and take stock of my year’s rights and wrongs and to be part of a community of people doing the same thing. I was surprised by this because for me, going to shul has often been more about being part of the community than about being religious. Growing up, I felt restless sitting in services and would flip through the siddur (prayer book) to find passages that resonated with me. Last year, I was not initially disappointed when I couldn’t join my family and friends in the sanctuary.
Now, as a parent to a very active toddler, I don’t often find myself sitting in services. I’m finding new ways to connect with Judaism that not only work for our family, but are also meaningful for us and show her how wonderful our community is. In particular, we translate Judaism’s focus on tikkun olam (repairing the world) through social action. Though we’re not perfect at it by any stretch of the imagination, we’re working to make social action part of the fabric of our family. Now, we’re giving tzedakah (righteous giving) each Shabbat. We teach her about sharing. We teach her about being kind to others. We talk and think about things we can get involved in as a family to teach her that social action comes in many forms and is a beautiful part of our heritage. I’m so thankful to her for being the impetus to get out there and do what I’ve been more passively engaged with all these years.
We have a long way to go to make the world a better place. Our little family is starting small. But this Rosh Hashanah, we’re putting social action high on our list of priorities. Social action is a special and beautiful part of Judaism during the High Holidays and all year long. We’re grateful to have found such a meaningful way to connect and to teach the next generation how to repair the world.
How has starting a family changed the way you relate to your religious practice?