This will be my second Rosh Hashanah in Israel. My family and I made Aliyah last September, two weeks before the High Holiday season.
As I work on improving myself throughout the year, there’s an expectation to increase this teshuva work during the High Holidays.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are typically a time of extra prayer and introspection. I keep hearing things like “The King is in the Field,” and that Hashem is closer during this time. And now that I’m living in the Holy Land, the spiritual connection should be even greater, or so I thought.
But it didn’t feel that way to me. In fact, I have felt even further from Hashem–further from spirituality, from creativity and from my true self. So this morning while leaving a voice note for a friend in Florida, I shared this awareness and the pain it was causing me. During the time of year when I’m expected to feel extra holy, I wasn’t feeling anything. Hashem certainly didn’t feel closer; if anything, He felt further away!
And in saying it out loud, admitting it verbally to myself and to her as I looked out the window, I felt a shift.
Suddenly I noticed the beautiful sunlight coming through the trees. And I heard a response to my nagging feeling of shame and discomfort
I just needed to pause long enough, and to share my desire for connection verbally. Up until this morning, it was only in my head as I kept going from task to task–working, taking care of my kids and my house and doing mundane tasks. I wasn’t sharing that I wanted to feel closer to Him.
I now feel closer, simply because I shared that I felt far…
Days of Awe?
Do I feel awe?
It’s hard to feel a sense of awe when you aren’t really feeling gratitude for being alive or a sense of mortality. I take my breath and beating heart for granted, not to mention my ability to use the bathroom, to walk, to see and hear and talk.
Maybe being here in the Holy Land, hearing jets flying overhead on a daily basis and reading about ongoing terror attacks on the Jewish people serves as a reminder that our enemies are trying to push us out of our complacency.
That’s the most painful place to be — numbly going about the daily grind of working and scrolling without noticing what’s really going on. There’s a battle of darkness versus light within each of us, and surrounding us.
I’m used to feeling things deeply, to crying and getting angry and pushing myself and others to wake up. So when I realized I had joined the mundane world of disconnection, there was a part of me that still longed to be heard, to feel, to break free from the chains of spiritual indifference.
Judaism teaches that a person has three ongoing relationships–with oneself, with others, and with G-d.
A relationship with myself means an honest assessment of my character strengths and defects, an awareness of my purpose for living, and taking responsibility for my actions, especially during this time.
A relationship with others translates into fulfilling my role in this world, how I can benefit others, and being aware of the impact I have on those with whom I have contact.
A relationship with G-d connects me to the Infinite Power in this world, tapping into ultimate peace and allowing me to humbly see my place in the grand scheme of creation.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook explains: “When we forget the essence of our own soul… everything becomes confused and in doubt. The primary teshuva, that which immediately lights the darkness, is when a person returns to himself, to the root of his soul; then he will immediately return to G-d, to the soul of all souls.”
That’s where I’m trying to get–back to my true self. The High Holidays remind me of my mortality. And I think of all the things I want to accomplish while I’m still here in this world.
I pray to merit feeling joy, strength and clarity over the coming weeks as I take steps closer to my Creator, and the person I am truly meant to be as a Jewish mother now living in the land of Israel.
Some people read Psalm (Tehillim) 27 before Rosh Hashanah:
Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; from whom shall I be frightened?
When evildoers draw near to me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies against me-they stumbled and fell.
If a camp encamps against me, my heart shall not fear; if a war should rise up against me, in this I trust.
One [thing] I ask of the Lord, that I seek-that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of the Lord and to visit His Temple every morning.
That He will hide me in His tabernacle on the day of calamity; He will conceal me in the secrecy of His tent; He will lift me up on a rock.
And now, my head will be raised over my enemies around me, and I will sacrifice in His tent sacrifices with joyous song; I will sing and chant praise to the Lord.
Hearken, O Lord, to my voice [which] I call out, and be gracious to me and answer me.
On Your behalf, my heart says, “Seek My presence.” Your presence, O Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide Your presence from me; do not turn Your servant away with anger. You were my help; do not forsake me and do not abandon me, O God of my salvation.
For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord gathers me in.
Instruct me, O Lord, in Your way, and lead me in the straight path because of those who lie in wait for me.
Do not deliver me to the desires of my adversaries, for false witnesses and speakers of evil have risen against me.
Had I not believed in seeing the good of the Lord in the land of the living!
Hope for the Lord, be strong and He will give your heart courage, and hope for the Lord.