From the last hours of 5776: Erev Rosh Hashanah

rosh-hashanah-candle-lighting2Where to start.

I remember the year I finished the conversion at the Conservative synagogue in the city where I went to graduate school. I went to bet din that time on Chol Chamoed Sukkot. It was a crisp fall in southern Wisconsin. The Days of Awe and Elul were glorious — I was caught up in a social whirl for the first time as a Jew and on Simchat Torah I would meet The Physicist. I remember thinking, “It will always be like this.”

It’s almost never been like that.

So many holidays passed in Texas and Florida, hot and steamy. In the many Germany years, the weather was crisp, but the social atmosphere couldn’t have been more different. I loved them both, but the difference between Conservative shul in a university town and emerging “liberal” Judaism in a provincial town in Germany where three quarters of the synagogue members were Russian immigrants was marked.

I’ve mostly loved it. Some years have been sad, while in others I’ve been contemplating big questions. Fall always makes me more melancholy than normal, even in places where it’s sunny and warm.

And here I am, again, in yet another place, the wheel having spun round again, with apologies for the cliché. I sort of noticed when Elul began but as this year it fell so close to the anniversary of mom’s death and the local fall-out, I bookmarked repentance, return, and self-examination, and never came back to them.

Is time unraveling so quickly now? Have I lived here again nine months?

Among other things, inevitably I think of all the writing I wish I’d done this year and didn’t finish. I’m determined not to let this blog degenerate into “richard + richard armitage,” the way it did during The Crucible. But three premieres in three weeks have left me a little flat. Mr. Armitage, you need to get on top of that — spread these things out a little. I still have to write the third Toronto post, the one about me. It’s on my mind.

I was watching a performance review go in a local café a few days ago (why? why conduct these in public? the mind pales) of a lawyer who was working for a local company, and both the lawyer and the reviewer were put-together women with everything in place. Casting no aspersions on the type, I am not that woman. I’ve always got a stray strand of hair escaping, my book bag is always too full, there’s always crap on the floor of my car. I think I am a personal entropy hot spot some days. I need a life with fewer moving parts.

Sort of like thinking “it will always be this way” about the holidays, I think I’ve been stuck on becoming for a long time, perhaps a consequence of working in a university and the related emphasis on the growth mindset. I’ve always thought, “some day I will be put together like those women, some day my life will not lurch from crisis to crisis. Someday I will be whole, someday I will be complete, enough.”

I think I have to accept that just like the history of Rosh Hashanah for me is one of a holiday on strange terrain, I will always be the woman who’s forgotten to return at least one library book. Between “who will rest and who will wander,” I think the book was sealed a long time ago.

I decided about a week ago that I’m going to stick with Chabad for now, even though it’s a drive from here. It’s a feature of the Wisconsin Jewish experience anyway, driving long distances for worship. I think I will eventually join the Conservative shul here in town but I don’t want to until I’m employed full time again. And I enjoy the comparatively lower judginess of Chabad, where no one cares what I wear. I stand out because of my voice anyway, and I find that wearying but don’t know how to shut up while praying, either. Too much “he who sings prays twice” from my childhood, I suppose.

אָדָם יְסוֹדוֹ מֵעָפָר, וְסוֹפוֹ לֶעָפָר בְּנַפְשׁוֹ יָבִיא לַחְמוֹ מָשׁוּל כְּחֶרֶס הַנִּשְׁבָּר כְּחָצִיר יָבֵשׁ וּכְצִיץ נוֹבֵל כְּצֵל עוֹבֵר וּכְעָנָן כָּלָה וּכְרוּחַ נוֹשָׁבֶת וּכְאָבָק פּוֹרֵחַ וְכַחֲלוֹם יָעוּף

Yesterday, I made tzimmes (kind of — left out the carrots because dad hates carrots and didn’t tell him that was what it was) and a small honey cake (which dad didn’t like — where’s the frosting?). I’ll light candles tonight, but after he goes to bed, I think. I don’t want to drive to shul tonight, but I’ll be there tomorrow, and Tuesday if tomorrow goes well.

If you’ve read this far and are looking for Richard Armitage news, I will probably collect today’s tweets but definitely won’t be online for most of tomorrow.

I wish a sweet New Year to those who celebrate and may you and all of us be inscribed in the Book of Life and sealed for a good New Year. Shanah tovah!

~ by Servetus on October 2, 2016.

38 Responses to “From the last hours of 5776: Erev Rosh Hashanah”

  1. I wish you a wonderful year Serv. A year of dreams come true. Best of everything, always. Evie xxx


  2. I like the woman you are, just so. Happy New Year.


  3. Wishing you a sweet and wonderful new year.
    While I enjoy all the “Richard” news and analysis, the “me” parts are always very interesting as well, as some of what you discuss will resonate with me and lead me to be more introspective too, rather than just keep on with the constant busy-ness of life.
    I’m looking forward to the third Toronto post, as that is the place I spent my teenage and much of my adult years. I’ve been gone for 15 years, but it was where I studied, established my independence, and began my family.
    I love the feeling in the fall of being perhaps on the brink of something, some big change perhaps, that will lead me to be the more organized and fulfilled person that I’d like to be (preferably without the crap on the floor of my car!).
    I wish you that feeling, and that it propels you towards all that you would like to achieve.


    • I think they put crap magnets on the floors of cars. Although I have to say that in my case it is often more than the floor. Thanks for the good wishes.


  4. I did not know you were a convert. Good for you and my wishes for a Happy, Peaceful & Healthy Year. L’Shana Tova!


    • LOL, three times! Three times I converted to this crazy religion! 🙂 So you know I really wanted to. Gut yontiff!


  5. Best wishes for a healthy and happy year to come, Servetus. x


  6. It’s interesting how we look at others and assume they have their lives together. In my experience once you scratch the surface most people are struggling in one way or another.

    I look at you and wonder at the dedication with which you keep this blog. Some days I don’t even get to read everything ( mainly because I’m too busy picking stuff off the floor of the car 😀) and yet you keep this remarkable journal up to date, fresh and interesting. It’s a virtual bar where anyone can drop in and have a great conversation. Never underestimate the good you do in this world. Even when I’m ‘off’ RA I still love this community.

    Wishing you a healthy, happy and fulfilling year, Servetus.


    • 😉


    • I’m sure it’s true — as that aphorism that keeps circling the web says, everyone’s fighting their own hard battle. In the end I’d probably prefer to have my problems than someone else’s.

      Thanks for the kind words and good wishes!


  7. Bonne année!
    Il pourrait être judicieux de penser que les changements de saison sont des dates inspirantes pour les hommes religieux, qui y placent là, le début d’année. L’introduction de ma thèse d’étudiante sur la photosensibilité m’avait fait approcher certains pouvoirs et impacts du soleil dans les mythes et croyances des civilisations anciennes.
    Aussi je me permets de vous parler de la seule personne américaine, que je connaisse. J’ai eu l’honneur, à Orsay en 1986, de la rencontrer et de pouvoir lui parler (heureusement sa famille est d’origine française) . Son nom est Dr. Micheline Mathews-Roth. Apparemment elle continuerait toujours à travailler, dans la recherche médicale à Boston MA. C’est l’heure du bilan pour moi aussi!
    J’espère que mon projet familial, qui est de s’envoler, à quatre personnes, à NY aux prochaines vacances, comblera mes espérances de gommer certaines lacunes … Je vous souhaite de beaux rêves aussi.


  8. I look forward to the third Toronto post too! 🙂
    I think you are wonderful just the way you are: stray strands of hair and overflowing book bag included! It’s all part of who you are, and in case you have noticed, there’s a whole bunch of us who gather here regularly to read what you write and marvel at your exceptional vocabulary. I am so pleased to have finally met you in person, and enjoyed every minute of all the varied and interesting conversations we had. So leave your car floor alone, and keep on connecting with all of us in this terrific community. Armitage may have connected all of us, but it has become so much more. Thank you! (I love what Bollyknickers said about the “virtual bar!”)


    • having too many books often leads to having too many vocabulary words 🙂

      It was great to meet you too and the third TO post is coming up, darn it.


  9. Shanah tovah S! May the year bring you good things, peace and always good health. Best wishes for the year! Hope you can really enjoy these holiday days.


  10. L’Shana Tovah, Serv. So many things I’d like to say, but desperately need sleep and don’t want to wax too emotional. I agree with the others, you are wonderful. May this be the year you’re at peace with that.


  11. Happy New Year, Servetus! I wish you all the best 😉


  12. Shana Tova, Serv!
    Nothing is ever what it looks like on the outside… You may not be ‘put together’ or ‘polished’ like some (I know I am not!) but, really, do you want to be? I always think that if I’d really want to be more polished, I would put more effort into it and that I am not willing to put in that much effort shows me that being really ‘polished’ is apparently not that important to me. Somehow I think we will always be insecure about certain things and we will always be searching… Some things we can try to do better and some things are just what they are… like the propensity to forget library books, I’m so with you there. 🙂 (and accept the consequences like paying tons of late fees).


    • I think it’s two fold — one is, yes, if I wanted to, I’d put more effort into it, but the second one is that it would take more effort for me than it would for some people. I’m never sure if I’m resistant to effort period, or just to the fact that I would need to work harder at it (i.e., am I principled or am I lazy?).


  13. All the best for the new year, Serv. Hopefully you can simply enjoy parts of the festivities. Actually I’d like to taste some of your honey cake 😉


  14. This post is, in fact fulfilling what you wish for. It is about you. It reveals your hopes, as well as your insecurities. It asks questions, and answers others. When you write like this, it draws us in. It makes us question, and sometimes alters our opinions. I always love this type of “letter” to friends. They show more of who you really are, and I suspect give you the gift in return of knowing that we care about you, not just what information you can provide us with. I appreciate the RA info service greatly, as well as the honest exchanges that follow, with or without (mostly) friendly differing opinions, and the safe place where sometimes silliness to outright fantasy worthy objectification in good fun reigns supreme. Either way, at it’s core this is a group of women who can come together in friendship and fun. YOU did that. You made it happen, and brought us all together. Well ok, Richard helped 😉
    BTW, my guess is those perfectly polished, clean car floor women have probably not accomplished nearly what you have. Have they worked hard to educate themselves? Are they scholars for the sake of curiosity? Are they multi-lingual? Have they had the experience of living in Europe for many years? Do they make the effort to put out a blog everyday, some days several? Do they care for an elderly father? Eh, they don’t have a hair out of place.


    • Thanks for the kind words!

      I think some of the polished have done those things. There are a lot of really accomplished women in this world and not all of them are disheveled, lol.

      I was talking to a student a year or so ago about her planned career in non-profits and I said, “on top of your resume, you have the look” and she said, “what do you mean” and I said, “you look like someone who works for a prominent non-profit” and she said, “huh” and I said, “I think there are some people whose vibe is a certain way and they gravitate in certain directions. it’s not so much how you dress in itself, but the energy around you.” I think one of the things it behooves people to do is to work with, rather than against, their sort of natural vibe.


  15. Hey,(((Serv)). I like to think that world is full of sensitive,intelligent and nice girls with bags full of books and unruly strands of hair 🙂 What a horrible!! realisation for married woman 😉


  16. Happy New Year Serv and may each year get better 🙂


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