Shana Tova v’metuka!
We are now officially ‘on the other side’ of Rosh Hashana 5784, and it seems to me, there will be a lot more sweetness this year then it currently still appears.
There’s a Breslov custom to do vidui on the eve of Rosh Hashana, at the grave of a real Tzaddik, where you go through as much stuff you can remember from the past year, and try to atone for it, before Rosh Hashana begins.
If you’re in Uman – you do that by Rabbenu.
But here in Jerusalem, a lot of the Rav’s people – the wives and kids and others who didn’t make it out to Uman – go to the grave of Shimon HaTzaddik.
It’s been the minhag for me and my kids to go to Shimon HaTzaddik for a few years now, so Friday morning, we all piled in the car and headed out to Sheikh Jarrah.
Rav Natan Sternhertz, Rebbe Nachman’s main student, actually wrote a book where he set out many of the ‘sins’, alphabetically, to go through.
A lot of that book is geared more towards men, but it’s still a great ‘jumping off’ point, and I find every year that God draws my attention to some other part of the text, where I suddenly remember what a cack job I did in that area, the last 12 months.
In previous years, some of my kids have been more, and less, into doing vidui at Shimon HaTzaddik.
One year, one of them even skipped it, and that led to yet more ‘avodat hamiddot’ for me, right before Chag, to try not to judge them to harshly, or feel aggrieved and upset about them exercising their God-given right to free choice.
It’s their life, after all, and they will have to abide by the consequences of their decisions.
But this year, I have to say it was a very uplifting, emotional experience for all of us.
By the end, all of us were crying a bit, realising just how flawed we actually are, and how much patience and love and compassion God continues to show us, year after year, when He gives us yet another chance to do a bit better, and to fix a bit more.
Then the Rosh Hashana whirl-wind descended.
I was having the family of one of my kid’s friends come stay for two days, while the father was also in Uman.
They have a sweet 9 year with Downs Syndrome – and he needs a lot of love and attention.
Let me just pause now, and salute all those parents with Downs kids, and kids with autism, and all the other conditions that require so much constant care and attention from the parents.
By the end of chag, I was so impressed with the mother – and also the rest of the family – and very humbled by the amount of grumbling and whining I’ve done done the years about my own parenting pressures.
But the kid, the naughty, sweet kid, brought so much light into the home over the chag.
It’s hard to describe this properly, but if you’ve ever spent time with a child with Downs in a relaxed environment, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
So on the one hand, I went into chag totally consumed by ‘here and now’ issues of making sure beds were made, and food was ready, and cakes were made.
(Boy, were cakes ever made. We were six adult women in the end, and everyone made at least two cakes…. It was the ‘sweetest’ Rosh Hashana I ever had.)
And on the other hand, I went into chag feeling pretty sad that the Rav hadn’t got to Uman, and that there is talk of wars and big earthquakes hitting Eretz Yisrael – I will give more details of this when I get the Rav’s actual words to read, and then BH I will translate what was said.
Miraculously, I got ready in time for someone to drop me off at the Rav, on Ido HaNavi, for Friday night.
I hadn’t expected to go, so it made things even more of a ‘rush’ than usual, and the first five minutes, I have to admit I just felt a lot of sadness.
It felt like the ‘bad’ had won out, yet again.
But then I clapped a bit with the Rav… sang a big…. jumped a bit with the crowd of mostly women and very, very few men there.
And I started to cheer up.
The Rav himself looked radiant – mamash like he hadn’t just spent the last week travelling all over Eastern Europe, trying to pass through the border to Ukraine – and the vibe in the crowd was actually very joyful.
Some calm descended inside my turbulent soul, and I went back home in a much better mood than I came out.
God is deciding all this, I reminded myself.
And God is doing everything for the best – including for the very best for Am Yisrael.
Before Chag, I’d had a chat with my husband.
He went to Uman via Kerestir, in Hungary, and then the Baal Shem Tov – and he was travelling more than 32 hours, before he actually got there.
After what happened with the foot, the leg, the back, last year, we were both pretty nervous ahead of time that all the travelling could cause more problems, God forbid.
But he told me, he was doing fine, thank God, and that Uman was the busiest he’d ever seen it.
(Official figures say 47,000 men got to Uman this year…. and it’s probably still underestimating the total by a lot. Crazy – in a very good way.)
Meanwhile, all the usual cr*ppy disinformation sites – including Daniel Amram’s Telegram channel, which I’ve come to the conclusion has turned into more ‘controlled opposition’ at this point – were running scare stories trying to make it sound like something awful was going on in Uman.
There are huge tailbacks at the borders!!!!
(Obviously, these people never shopped at Rami Levi, if they think that’s news.)
There are huge amounts of trash being left on the pavements in Uman!!!
(Like you’d get at any venue or ‘festival’ when tens of thousands of people are there – and that’s the excuse the Ukrainians use for squeezing a ‘tourist tax’ out of every visitor to Uman on Rosh Hashanah….)
A Ukrainian policeman is beating up Jews with a baton, for breaking the curfew!!!!
(And here? Why, policemen beat up Jews with batons all the time – and they don’t even need a pretext.)
But the bottom line is this:
Uman was awesome this year.
All the travellers’ mesirut nefesh, time, effort and money is fixing things for all of us.
Back in Jerusalem, I went back to the prayers on Ido HaNavi Shabbat morning, when there was no shofar to hear in any case, so it didn’t matter that I was sitting outside, half-way up some crowded alley.
I did my Shmoneh Esrei…. I did my Mussaf…. and the prayers really spoke to me this year.
There was so much stuff in there about the ‘fake malchut‘ hatching conspiracies to destroy the Jews and entice them to serve idols, to tear them away from God.
But how in the end, God’s dominion will be clearly and openly revealed, and the kavod of Hashem will spread out to all corners of the earth…
It gave me so much chizzuk.
In the meantime, the ‘quiet space’ that I’d tried to carve out for myself to recite Mussaf turned into another test of middot.
Five seconds after I started praying, a woman with an enormous stroller and five small kids showed up, and arranged her kids’ little plastic chairs in a semi-circle with me in the middle of it.
“And so, instill Your awe, O Hashem our God, within all Your works…”
(Duvey, give Chana the Bamba. Duvey! Come back and give Chana her Bamba!!)
“And so, grant honor, O Hashem, to Your people…”
(Ima, I really need the bathroom….Can you wait a little, chamood?….No, Ima, I need NOW!!!)
“Holy are You, and awesome is Your name.”
(At this point, one of the kids steals the small fold-up chair I’d brought with me to sit on, and I had a massive battle with myself to carry on talking to God, doing the Mussaf of Rosh Hashana, and not just dropping everything to chase my chair down the street.)
“You have chosen us from all the peoples…”
(Does this belong to anyone? Does this jar belong to anyone?) – from the corner of my eye, I could see it was my jar of kombucha, that I’d brought with me from home. Some toddler had ‘found it’ where I’d stashed it under my now missing chair, while I prayed.)
I decided to just try and ignore everything and everyone, and to accept God’s dominion in my life, at least for the next few minutes.
If God wants me to have the chair, I’ll have it.
If He wants me to drink kombucha before the long walk home, I’ll drink it.
If He wants me to keep getting bashed by strollers, my feet trod on by small kids, and continually elbowed by a teen praying and swaying so enthusiastically she doesn’t even feel what’s going on here – fine by me!
When I was done, I found my chair two feet away, and the kombucha had survived it’s mugging as well.
On the way back home, I was pondering on why the prayers at the Rav so often hit buttons that can lead to some very bad middot surfacing.
But it came to me pretty fast, that this is the whole work to do down here.
We can’t ‘disconnect’ our prayers on Rosh Hashana from our real experiences and reactions as people.
And at the Rav, the two things go firmly hand-in-hand, giving you a clear picture of where you are really holding.
The next day, I went to hear the shofar blowing at the Sephardi shul up the road.
It was much ‘calmer’ – but in many ways, a little ucky.
One of the main old guys singing the prayers in turn lives with a xtian Phillipino woman, and has a child with her.
He dresses chareidi, but doesn’t keep Shabbat or kosher….
I had a real fight on my hands the whole time, to not keep judging him harshly for being a disgusting hypocrite.
As soon as I heard the Shofar (enough….) I got out of there and came back home, before the urge to ‘judge harshly’ totally overwhelmed me.
After Chag, my husband told me he’d had the best Rosh Hashana ever, over there in Uman.
I felt the same way, about my Rosh Hashana in Jerusalem.
In my home, where it really counts, there were no arguments this year, no ‘tension’, no eruptions, no harsh words.
And my house was literally packed to the rafters with people (and cake….)
BH, all of Am Yisrael will have a good 5784.
And all the ‘evils’ plans to harm the good people of the world will unravel, and come to naught.