Happy New Year—and have fun atoning!
I always wonder if now feels more like the real “new year” to all Jews because of the timing of Rosh Hashanah, as opposed to Jan. 1. Or maybe it’s just because I love buying school supplies and wearing scarves that this time feels like the start of something good. In January, it’s cold and not much is new besides a secular calendar. And by then, we are all sick of wearing scarves or whatever your favorite cooler temperature item is.
This September has been hot and does not feel like fall at all, despite the back-to-school craziness of my three kids—and the dang pumpkin spice everything everywhere. And yet, Friday is the start of Yom Kippur, no matter what the temperature.
Last night at dinner with an old friend, she asked if people really go around asking each other for forgiveness, and I confess that I do not, but yes, I should. I remember when I went to a religious Hebrew day school, students made “please forgive me” announcements on the bus and in the hallway and wherever. While that felt lame, even as a fifth-grader, I also see the beauty in the custom. Taking stock of your relationships and your behavior is a very good way to close out one year and start the next one fresh.
The same friend started her dinner with her family (and me) by everyone saying something that they are grateful for. (I think it is a lovely idea but my kids would laugh hysterically if I tried it.) And I think that it’s the perfect “other side of the coin” for atonement. Kind of like, here is what I did wrong and am sorry about, and here is what I have and am grateful for. As opposed to the Jan. 1 new year, which always feels like a list of weight loss resolutions, etc.
I sit here writing this at Hebrew College in Newton. (No, I am not having a midlife crisis and becoming a rabbi.) My youngest son is now attending a wonderful program called Gateways, a Hebrew school program for children with special needs. It’s his first week, and so far it seems like the traffic from our town is not as bad as I feared, the wi-fi and comfortable chairs are better than I expected, and the program is amazing. But like so many things, it is bittersweet. He used to attend our local temple’s religious school with his brother and sister. Like so many things when you have a child with special needs, it was complicated. So here we are in yet another new world—like therapeutic horseback riding and special needs swim lessons and the special needs soccer program—we are grateful to have the wonderful services, and heartbroken (and pissed) that we need them.
So as I sit here, I think about the people I have wronged this past year. Mostly my family. And I think about all the things I regret. Mostly things I was too scared to do. And I think about all the things I am grateful for. Mostly the people in my life. And the chance to reflect at temple with my family by my side.
Have a happy and healthy New Year!
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