It’s a few days before Rosh Hashana and I’m not ready. I haven’t gone to Slichot in the wee hours of the night. I haven’t sat in self reflection with lists of my good, bad and fugly qualities. At most I’ve picked fresh, red pomegranates from the tree in our small garden that have miraculously ripened in time for Rosh Hashana.
Of course I’m busy with my Rosh Hashana menu. I’m still debating whether oxtail stew is a good idea. I’ll make my apple jam that my grandmother used to make. I’ll prepare all the simanim which are all prayers for a good, sweet year, right?
When I think of this past year I think of suitcases, a long line of them. Our Aliyah luggage of 18 pieces plus hand luggage. All carefully weighed, every single thing necessary for our year ahead in Israel before our lift comes. Is this the kind of emotional, spiritual accounting You want on Rosh Hashana?
It’s easier to pack ‘things’. All the necessities of life; pyjamas, tooth brushes, the Nespresso machine. My deeds, my emotions, all the anger, frustration, irritation, mean thoughts, horrible gossip have added up into another kind of bag. And my love, happiness, joy, smiles, kind thoughts, loving words are in another. Or are they all chaotically mixed together? Like a Rosh Hashana meal.
I’m not sure how You wade through it all. I imagine Heaven must be as chaotic on Rosh Hashana as my apartment was when we unpacked all our Aliyah bags. Clothes, toy farm animals, books, pots, plates, random wires everywhere. I also know that if you focus pile by pile you get through it. I imagine that’s how You do it too.
I was just wondering though how many years of Aliyah allowance do I get? Here in Israel, I think it’s about two to ten years of various benefits. I’m thinking a life time inscription in Your Book of Life, despite my unkind words (okay, banshee shouts) at my children and long, suffering husband, would be nice. They should also get a life time, gold membership to your Life lounge, for putting up with me.
I’m trying to learn to not cry (or scream) over spilt milk, greasy counters, soggy cereal, exploding laundry piles and my three year old’s toilet cleaning obsession. In my own way I’m becoming more spiritual as I give up on the physical. Clothes don’t have to be ironed anymore. My appearance just isn’t as important as washing the dishes. Yoga classes aren’t as necessary as praying to You over my whites as I load them a second time in the washing machine after a disastrous first load.
Rosh Hashana is about gratitude as well, so thank You for my greatest comfort – food. You have blessed Your land and people with mouth watering, gastronomic abundance. You were so concerned about Your Promised Land’s ‘Milk and Honey’ reputation that You ensured a major French Aliyah, so that we’d have the creme de la creme of almond croissants, coffee eclairs and rainbow coloured macaroons. Every morning we bless our daily cappuccinos, which are the best in the world after Italy. (Can I put in a request for a major Italian Aliyah too?)
Perhaps food is the greatest prayer I have to offer this year. After all it’s what takes up most of my time. My morning prayers have been upon my children’s heads as I pack their lunches in their bags and send them off to a new school with new friends in a foreign tongue. It’s over the food I cook for supper. Alternating between fish (which I still don’t know the names of. I buy a packet of white fish and hope for the best) and pargiot kebabs. My evening prayers are that the basmati rice is soft and that the children will eat what I’ve sweated over.
With my food prayer I feel like I’ve come full circle with my generations of women. My grandmother, Nana Aziza, served You in the kitchen, at her elegant dining table which always had a sparkling white tablecloth. She brought people from all over to her table of steaming kubbeh bamya and chicken shorba. She didn’t know how to read and write. My reading and writing isn’t helping me much at the moment. I would have been better off like her, to know Your prayers by heart, to carry You in my heart as she did.
My grandmother’s table was better than a flying rocket at bringing Jews together. Who wasn’t happy to just be a simple Jew at her feasting table. Guests would sip her home brewed cardamon tea and pour out their hearts of human worries. A shrewish wife, the falling stock market, wayward children. I think her main advice was – תודה לאל ‘Thank God’ and just be happy. If anyone taught me that you can choose happiness no matter what your circumstances, it was her. Choose to smile and have a full table and most of all thank You, God.
So I want to end off by thanking You, not only for all the delicious Spinach and pine nut pasta, spicy felafel and hummus, and frozen Mango yogurts. But for Your people in Your land. They have been tremendously welcoming and loving. From our fellow Olim who brought us meals when we arrived, to the till people who help me pack my major grocery shops in bags, to the man on the motor bike who blessed me with a loud ‘׳לבריות when I sneezed on the street. Despite their abrupt, razor rough manners and toughness (which I completely attribute to them being sleep deprived. No body sleeps in this country), Your people care about each other. They care about me, even though I’m new and strange and speak an appalling pigeon Hebrew.
This is a good land blessed with ripening red pomegranate trees, olive trees and grape vines, whose fruits I literally pick off the streets of Jerusalem. And as I walk the narrow, winding streets I have a continual prayer on my lips. To enjoy the fresh fruits of the land, for myself, my children and all the peaceful people of the land. Even though I haven’t prayed properly for Rosh Hashana, even though I haven’t made my list, and even though I probably won’t change that much from last year to this new year, please let us all be blessed and inscribed in Your Book of Life.