Rosh Hashanah is a paradox. On the one hand, it is a celebration of the creation of the world and the sweetness of God’s gifts. On the other hand, it is a day of collective judgement.
For many years, I was a living paradox.
On the one hand, I was bursting with joy and fulfillment from my extraordinary children and engaging career. With each pepper that sprouted in my garden, each glass of wine, deep conversation and opportunity to help or connect with my community, I believed in the goodness of the world and our purpose for being here. I was happy.
On the other hand, I was suffocating, collapsing in a mismatched and therefore destructive marriage. I was afraid of leaving, but knew staying was failing my children and me. And when my marriage did finally end, even though I knew it was the right thing, I still felt a stifling combination of guilt, anger, fear, relief and determination.
What I never felt was regret. Each year of that marriage was needed, each child meant to be. There were some good time and good intentions. I wouldn’t give back a year. I would never go back.
Somehow, I never lost faith. Not that I didn’t question or test. Deep inside I believed that with the right balance of confidence (even if sometimes I had to fake it), resolve (even when I asked myself, “why?”), persistence (even if sometimes I thought it would be easier to give up), and prayer (even when I was confused by God’s answers), my children and I would not only make it, but thrive.
In my children’s sweet words: “I love Israel;” “This is the best school I’ve ever gone to;” “It’s exactly like you said it would be, Mom. Thanks for working so hard to get us here.”
We made it.
And now I am so fortunate that I am going to get not only to build a home in Israel, but to build it with a new partner — with the most perfect partner for me.
Even before I got divorced, I was convinced I didn’t need a partner. I was fine on my own, thank you very much. When I got divorced, I convinced myself I didn’t want a partner. My children and I were a fine-oiled team and there was no room for anyone else.
Until there was.
For someone else.
For Gil, which means happiness in English.
Gil and I have known each other for 15 years as colleagues and friends. What we didn’t know was that conversations that started more than seven months ago when I told him I wanted to move back to Israel would evolve into a relationship so deep that both of us believed we could move beyond the pain of our own divorces and start again.
He asked me to marry him after a tour of the Kotel tunnel excavations. Standing in an alcove directly behind where researchers believe the Holy of Holies would have been located, he chose me. And I chose him right back. And now we are committed to continuing each day to choose each other. Some days will be harder than others, but that is Rosh Hashanah – in all its sweetness and judgement.
What we both learned from our previous marriages is that each day is Rosh Hashanah. Each morning, we must wake up and start over, find new ways to do better for one another, to give to one another.
Each Rosh Hashanah, we strive to put our past limitations behind us and reach for new stars and starts. We are new beings on Rosh Hashanah – not because we lose our old selves, but because like the round challahs we eat, we complete a cycle and move onto the next one. If we close the year having learned from our challenges and successes, then we are more open and able to embrace what comes next. We are more able to choose life.
Israelis choose life every day and live it as intensely as possible. My children and I are Israeli; that feels so good.
Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the world. This Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of my world.