Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's Not So Much About the Shul Service...

...as it is about the memories.

I realized this Rosh Hashana while standing in shul that our memories of  Rosh Hashanahs and Yom Kippurs and Sukkots and Simchat Torahs are truly significant and help sustain us, embrace us and sometimes add to our praying.

As I listened to the shofar blowing, I thought of my dad in Gan Eden (I have absolutely no doubt in the world that he's way up there!) and thought of past services. I realized that it isn't so much about the praying that I was remembering, but rather what went on after shul.

I remembered families seeking each other out after services were over to gather up and head home. I'd walk down the stairs from the women's gallery and seek my father and brothers out. It was about the 25-minute walk home together, my arm enveloped under my father's arm, or in his coat pocket, and trying to walk with both my parents in one line on the narrow sidewalk. My brothers would be ahead or follow behind, chatting between themselves or other shul friends and family. The stopping off at a neighbor's to wish them a good Yom Tov and a good year. The reaching home and gathering round the table, my parents, brothers and myself, and eating the familiar and traditional foods each year. My father telling the story of standing on line for  a long period of time in the fish market to buy the chopped fish that he would make gefilte fish from. Eating the applesauce and compote or the baked apples that my parents would make a few days before the chag.

(We'd go apple picking, buy a couple bushels to store in the basement's cold cellar over the winter. And as Rosh Hashanah would near, my parents would stand at the counter and peel countless apples -- I was always amazed at my father's speed and ability to pare an apple skin in one long, extended strip. When I started helping them out in peeling apples, I would have finished peeling half an apple by the time that my father peeled three apples.)

It's that family togetherness, the minhagim and the brachot my parents bestowed upon one another and us children that I remember, that warm my heart, as I stand in shul, listen to the sounds of the shofar and pray for my voice/our voices to be heard.

4 comments:

Minnesota Mamaleh said...

pearl, this was absolutely heart-warmingly beautiful! i'm right there with you on the walk, with the apples. my grandfather peeled apples the same way as your father. and i always watched amazed, just like you! thank you for a lovely read on a rainy day. i needed that!

Robin said...

What a lovely picture you paint! Coming from a very lapsed Jewish family, I don't have those sorts of memories, and now I'm pissed! I think we went to Wal Mart to get new socks on Rosh Hashana.

Batya said...

Lovely... I don'thave those sorts of memories either. I do remember a Rosh Hashannah or Yom Kippur in a giant tent (at least it looked big to a 3 year old) before the Oakland Jewish Center, Bayside, NY was built.

Carmi said...

This is such a powerful montage of visuals, Pearl. I've long felt similarly about my own shul experiences. It was never about the dogmatic repetition of prayer. It was about the seemingly ordinary activities that surrounded being there, the people I was with, the things we said and did, the walk there and home, the food, the feeling of being part of a greater whole.

You totally took me back. I hope I do as good a job creating this sense for our children as my parents did for me.