This year, I had the most uninspiring Rosh Hashanah.
My toddler boy caught coxsackie virus (hand foot and mouth disease) a few days before the Holiday. For the first night of Rosh Hashana, we planned to help head the shul/Chabad dinner as we do every year. But of course, I wasn’t going to schlep a sick kid there, so I stayed home with the toddler and baby while my family went off to shul.
The next morning, I was really ready for some soulful meditation and reflection while praying at shul. I was anticipating the piercing sound of the shofar as it pierced my own heart to be better this year. I was ready for the Rabbi’s speech that I look forward to listening to all year- it move me so, it speaks to me and inspires me for change.
Toddler woke up and his fever broke. He was eating now. He even asked to go to shul. Everything was going according to my plan! We walked the half hour trek to synagogue and two minutes before entering, he started kvetching that his mouth hurt. Sigh. We walked in to shul and the kvetch turned in to a full-fledged cry. Baby didn’t like seeing older brother crying so he joined in. Dad was supposed to blow the shofar and was davening for the Amud so this mama had no choice but to make a U turn and walk the 100+ degree weather right back home. There I collapsed wondering how in any way this was Rosh Hashanah.
Day two of Rosh Hashanah I woke up to the toddler eating 8(!) bowls of cereal, making up for his starvation diet of the last few days. He slept through night and was running around. This time I decided to come right before the Rabbi’s speech and shofar blowing. I walked in with only two minutes left to the Rabbis speech-I was disappointed but thought that at least I wouldn’t miss the Shofar this time. The toddler had other plans. He decided that he needed a cookie from the shul’s kitchen precisely as his dad started to blow the Tekias. And he was really really loud in his tantruming. His voice is definitely his weapon. I had to take him out of shul until he was through. When he was finished, the shofar was too.
Now what? Was this how my Rosh Hashana was supposed to look like? I was feeling super resentful. I had been awake every hour for a few nights straight, I didn’t have any time for myself for a good amount of days and I was losing it. I am not the mom who feels fulfilled and inspired by solely taking care of my family all day. What was G-d trying to teach me here? What could I take away that would uplift me when I literally felt least inspired and ready for the New Year?
The following day, on my Shabbat walk to shul, when everyone was finally back to feeling like themselves and there were a few moments of quiet I suddenly remembered a story told to me throughout my childhood. It was about a great Rebbe learning late in the night. His child, sleeping close by, fell out of the crib and started to cry. The Rebbe, deep in prayer and study didn’t hear the cry. But the grandfather, The Alter Rebbe, residing on the upper floor of the house heard. He went over to the child, lifted him and rocked him back to sleep. He later admonished his son and said “No matter how engrossed one may be in the most lofty occupation, one must never remain insensitive to the cry of a child.”
Perhaps this year, my wake-up call was not though the sound of the shofar but rather through the cry of my child. To allow it to pierce my soul, to lift my child not only physically but in every other way. To look around me and not only hear but truly listen to my children, my friends, my community members crying out in pain.
So this was my shofar call this year-although not through a literal shofar, it was a literal cry from the heart straight to mine. G-d telling me-“You thought you need to get inspired through one channel but I have a different plan-for you to be selfless and totally present for those who are crying.”
When a child or other human is in pain, it isn’t a time to aspire to be inspired. It is a time and call for action. To drop my preconceived plans of being on a holiday high and do a kindness by being there for others.
Because ultimately, isn’t that the point of all the inspiration and euphoria? To make this world a better place-starting with ourselves, our families and our children.