Rosh Hashana was hard. I tell myself I should have expected difficulties but I did not have a sense beforehand of the depths to which I’d go. A theme of this year’s Kehilla service was to recognize and pay attention to the words one’s inner, still small voice is telling you before the gates close and your direction for the next year is sealed in the Book of Life. Here’s what I wrote about how I missed the mark.
“By being too self-critical and holding myself to perfectionist standards. By moving too fast and going to worst case scenario.”
” Do you believe in God? ” I remember asking Stew at a Yom Kippur service at Havurah Shalom in Portland, whose building was that same style Masonic Temple with rows of creaky, uncomfortable, brown wood seats, tall opaque windows with trim decorated in carved mystic symbols that include both crosses and Jewish stars. I feel comfortable at Kehilla since in look, feel and politics it replicates and in music surpasses Havurah, where Stew and I revived our Judaism. Stew would stand beside me and hum along off-key to Avinu Malkenu, but he never answered the question. He just put his arm around my shoulder and folded me into his Tallis trimmed in gold that matched his hair. The Tallis that I wrapped Stew in when I buried him in Portland. And David was an avowed atheist, culturally Jewish but with such an engineer’s brain his interest in spiritual practice was as an observer – Jewish or Buddhist.
At Kehilla this past Monday, during the Avinu Malkenu prayer with its soaring music I raised my arms, not high, but one on each side of my body, my hands low just off my thighs. I reached out to Stew on my right, David on my left. I hummed along like Stew, but I was so overcome with emotion, so overwhelmed by loss I could barely get a sound to come out of my mouth. Rational Judy tells me I am imagining all this to ease my grieving; the Judy who believes in a spiritual universe feels comforted in the belief that in this new year I will have both my guys to support me, one on each side.
I still can’t answer that question of belief in the divine, except to say a bearded old guy on a throne in the sky is not my an image I relate to. I know, if I don’t believe in the divine, how can I turn away from my sins or even commune with my two ghosts? I have no answer to that either. And what about being too hard on myself? About telling myself I don’t know how to extend the rachmonis, the compassion that is a hallmark of this holiday to my life. I do know this: if I can tap into the love I feel for Simon, perhaps I can figure out how to practice compassion for myself at least during these ten days. I hope so.