Sh'nat 5768 Tovah to All!
We had a very meaningful Rosh Hashana night; I always love our custom of the "yehi ratzon" seder with it's different foods, symbolizing the various blessings we want G-d to grant us: a retreating and ending of our enemies, our being fruitful and multiplying, our merits increasing, etc. In short, we do more than the average Ashkenazi Jew with his 'apples and honey,' does. Maybe you could call us "AshkeSefardim!"
But this Rosh Hashana was a little different than in past years; this is the first year I wasn't able to, for physical reasons, walk the mile-and-a-quarter to shul the first day: I can't remember any other Rosh Hashana where I didn't go to shul.
At first, I was devastated. How would I be infused with kavanah without the congregation to enhance the feeling of teshuvah (you've heard of "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" ?)?
How would I hear the blasts of the shofar and be awed into 'awakening' to ask G-d for forgiveness?
I needn't have worried. As it turns out, in the silence of being 'home alone' there was a kind of focus and kedushah I don't think I would have been able to achieve - in my physical state - in shul.
At home, I was able to daven at my own pace, read the Torah and haftarah portion, and then sit down with my machzor (which has in it pages on the laws of the chag), kitzur shulchan aruch and my old tattered mishna la-talmidim from junior high (it's amazing it hasn't disintegrated completely) and review the halachot and minhagim of Rosh Hashana, such as why we don't say Hallel on Rosh Hashana, and especially of the blowing of the shofar, because I knew that someone would have to blow it for me (though I've tried, I can't get a sound out of my shofar, which I bought years ago. Nor can my husband.)
When I finished my learning, I limped over to a wonderful neighbor, who, in honor of his just receiving his smichah in Israel in July, I had been planning to ask to blow the shofar for me.
We are only required to hear 30 blasts of the shofar, although some shuls, especially Hassidic ones, such as Chabad, do many more, over 100 - in order to "confound the satan."
I said the brachah and my friend blew 30 beautiful blasts of tashrat, tashat & tarat. His wife was amazed-they were more clear and beautiful than the ones they had heard in shul.
Then I limped home and waited for my husband to return. And waited. And waited. Finally, at around 3 p.m. (I was upstairs already, trying to rest), I hear the key in the lock.
As it turns out, I never would have held out in shul until three, so it's really hashgachah pratit that I didn't try to walk all the way to shul and instead stayed home!
After lunch, another neighbor knocked on our door: he had heard that I didn't make it to shul, and wanted to blow the shofar for me. So I 'called them' and heard thirty more blasts, from our own shofar-which our neighbor said was easier to blow than his-which were beautiful. So, our shofar does work (it's just we who can't get a freakin' note out of it)!
All in all, it is always exhausting to clean-plan-cook-bake for a three-day chag, and by the time Shabbat afternoon rolled around, I could barely drag myself upstairs to rest. But I did.
It is always an awesome time of the year, when the Chagim arrive. As difficult and exhausting as it is, I wouldn't change it for the world.
Meanwhile, I bet they are saying, in Israel: "A 3-day chag! I don't know how those galutniks do it!!"
Gmar Hatimah Tovah to you all.
"Yehi ratzon" seder=The "May it be Your Will" order of the evening meal, using different foods to represent different requests of G-d.
Kavanah=Intention & focus (while praying)
Shofar=Ram's horn blown on the Jewish New Year & end of Yom Kippur
Kedushah=State of Holiness
Haftarah=Portion of the Prophets read after the Torah (5 Books of Moses) portion; literally means 'discharge, release, or separate.'
Machzor=High Holiday prayerbook
kitzur shulchan aruch=Shortened version of the codification of Jewish law(literally, "the set table.")
mishna la-talmidim=The first written recording of the Jewish Rabbinic Oral Law, this one geared to students
halachot=Laws (literally, "the WAY of doing things Jewishly)
Hallel=Prayer of joyous praises of G-d, recited on the joyous holidays, except for Rosh Hashana
smichah=Officially becoming a Rabbi
tashrat, tashat & tarat= Abbreviation of the different sounds one blows on the shofar
hashgachah pratit=Divine Providence
Chagim=Holidays; with a 'capital C,' referring to the High Holidays
galutniks=Those who live outside of the Land of Israel: in "exile."
Gmar Hatimah Tovah=Expression used during the High Holidays meaning "may you be sealed for a good year."