Before my parents got married, they made a deal: they would raise daughters Christian (Mom’s faith) and sons Jewish (Dad’s). I have many feels about this, most of them cranky. I was AFAB, so I grew up Christian, and I felt like I wasn’t even supposed to notice Judaism, beyond lighting the chanukiah every year and having the odd dinner-table debate about how to milk a chicken.
Now that I’m no longer Christian or a daughter, I feel pulled to reconnect with that erased part of my ancestry. I have -0% interest in converting, but I’m slowly and cautiously integrating small bits of practice and culture when I feel I can do so in ways that respect both Judaism and my own beliefs and values.
The Days of Awe – the period spanning from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur – feel especially resonant to me. I find something powerful in the idea of a time of year set aside for honestly and compassionately assessing myself, acknowledging my shortcomings and committing to doing better in the year ahead. I also experience it as mirroring a similar period of reflection between Fall Equinox and Samhain (a period that often encompasses the Days of Awe).
So both nights I lit a candle and recited a naturalistic Pagan version of the Rosh Hashanah blessing that would surely have raised many an ancestral eyebrow. Yesterday at lunch (couldn’t quite get my act together to do it Sunday) I ate apples with honey to bring more sweetness into my life. And yesterday after work I stood at my current favorite spot along Nahar HaMississippi and prayed my own tashlich, ridding myself of the immobilizing guilt of the year’s wrongdoings. I don’t have a shofar, but maybe next year I’ll honk my recorder a few times.
And that was my Rosh Hashanah observance. Most of my Jewish relatives might’ve looked askance at it, but it felt right to me. In the days to come I hope to review and revise one or more of my end-of-life documents, look for ways to “re-up” my social and environmental activism, and spend as much time as possible in contemplation and experience of awe and humility.
Shana tova 5783! Here’s to a sweet year on this sacred Earth. Blessed be.
Image description: 8 apple wedges on a blue plate. A jar of honey is just visible on the table behind the plate. Photo by the author.