Special Holiday Edition Everything You Need to Start the New Year Right!
By: Miriam Sasson
You may recall your childhood holidays in the synagogue each year hungrily wondering when the Yom Kippur fast would be over, or mentally counting how many pages in your Mahzor remained. But as time passed, you came to value each moment in the synagogue as an opportunity for growth and connection. You finally felt joy and meaning in the familiar tunes of the tefillot. Now that you’re at home, though, it takes a bit more work and introspection to capitalize on the inspiration of the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe).
Do Your Homework
Much like cooking up a surprise birthday bash, writing a book or planning a vacation, preparation is vital for something to come out nice (or even to come out – period). How much truer that is regarding the tefillot you will say on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur!
The month of Elul and the Ten Days of Repentance are auspicious times for prayer. Although the inspiration of the High Holidays is in the air, you may need to do something tangible to bring it home to you, especially if that is where you’ll be spending these days while the men are at the synagogue. For some, that means investing in inspirational reading material, listening to CDs (or whatever shiur-playing device we’re up to nowadays) or attending classes. It also helps to familiarize yourself with the order of the tefillot before the onset of the holidays. (That prevents the “Help! Am I supposed to bow now?” questions from surfacing in the middle of the Amidah.) Open a Hebrew-English prayer book before the holidays to understand the important prayers you will be saying. Although this “holiday homework” may take time, the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are simply too valuable to pass up.
To the King of All Kings
The weeks before the holidays are quite hectic. Through a whirlwind of school supplies, new shoes and holiday shopping, you managed to complete your spiritual “homework” before the holidays. But Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur arrive, and then what?
On the actual holiday, don’t try to kill time; utilize your free hours purposefully. Saying Tehillim is an appropriate and fulfilling way to spend your time. You can even divide the chapters among friends and family to complete the entire book. Read through the viduy (confession) prayer and think about how you plan to improve yourself spiritually. Resolve to strengthen your connection to the One Above in a specific way and to forgive everyone in your heart.
On Their Level
Babies, preschoolers and lower elementary school kids are at home with you? Seize these precious “teachable” moments and explain to your children what the hagim (holidays) are all about. (It’s been a while since you were a student; be sure you’ve taught yourself first!) Besides for providing something for them to do, they will also understand the significance of the High Holidays better. Together with your child, go through his or her school notebooks, and discuss what was learned. Kids internalize concepts more deeply when they are brought down to their level. Encourage the little ones to sing the songs and the older “little ones” to say the tefillot they’ve learned in school, as well. Praise them when they’ve asked forgiveness from their friends and siblings or done other mitzvot.
Prep With Pride
Sometimes the Yamim Noraim pass by in a blur. How, you might wonder, am I supposed to coronate the King and feel the awe of the Day of Judgment when I am so occupied with preparing six-course meals and taking care of the crew? Good news is, as Shaatra Mothers, that is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. So your best bet is to find meaning and take pride in the holiday preparations. When you’re taking care of those cutie pies of yours, you’re essentially telling Hashem, our King, “Here I am, taking care of Your children!” Is that not the greatest acknowledgement of His sovereignty? In that case, three cheers for you, Mom!
This year, make the most of the High Holidays even at home with the children. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll become a new person, too!