Sunday, September 12, 2010
Shrugging Off Judgment
promise is a promise, so here I am, though I would be better off finishing off my assignments for the month.
We finished the first big push of the High Holidays. The mighty preparations for six meals is behind me, Hallelu-ah. I did a lot of advance work, preparing and freezing whatever I could and then had two days of marathon cooking. On Tuesday I cooked for 9 hours straight and then cleaned the kitchen, too. I thought I had most of the work behind me and that Wednesday would not be as long and protracted as that. WRONG.
But it all worked out. Translation: as a result of standing on my feet all day, two days in a row, and then standing in services for a further four hours, my right foot swelled double the size of the left. What this means is that I GOT OUT OF WASHING THE DISHES. Dov took a look at my foot, brought me an ice pack, and rolled up his sleeves.
Dov is a trooper about washing the dishes on Shabbos, but Rosh Hashana is the time I take over and let him handle the weightier stuff of praying on behalf of our family, as head of the household. I like to leave his head free for that purpose during the holidays.
The kids were great--they also washed loads of dishes and helped set up and clear from the huge holiday feasts. It was a pleasure for me to sit back and be treated like a queen.
But I got side-tracked here. I intended to write about something different: the tests that get thrown my way at each holiday.
I don't like to pray amidst huge crowds of people. I like little tiny congregations that are serious and focused. I don't like pageantry. So what I do is get up for the sunrise service which begins at 5:40 AM. I like the atmosphere. A lot. I leave the house on tippy-toes and all is still, dark, and quiet. The night air is cool and scented from the lavender bushes planted around my apartment complex.
I was the first woman to arrive and got to sit just where I liked. Not too close and not too far from the blessed A/C.
Here is where things kinda/sorta went downhill for me. Don't get me wrong--the service was fine and went off without a hitch. We were done by 9:45 AM, while the rest of my family went to the 8:30 AM service and finished at 1:00 PM (they followed my good example on the second day of the holiday and were glad they did).
But like I said, every year, there are these tests put all around me in services. Each year I learn the depths of my own intolerance. The woman who sits behind me who is doused with such a heavy spraying of cologne that I find it difficult not to choke is a true trial for me. I am supposed to be feeling unity and instead I want to screech at her: "How inconsiderate can you get? Who the Hell sprays cologne all over themselves just before they're going to be in a room filled to capacity with worshipers?"
But I am not supposed to be thinking those thoughts. I am supposed to be begging for another year, and I'm supposed to be feeling at one with my people. If I become irritated and judge this woman with my nasty thoughts, why will I merit a kind judgment from above?
Each year, the temptation to judge comes in a different guise. This year it was all around me. There was the girl in front of me, digging, digging, digging at her backside. Outside of her skirt wasn't enough so sure enough, she slipped her hand right in there. "Oh GROSS!" I thought, and then tried to wash the thought out of my head, substituting, "It's only a test. It's only a test."
Then there was the girl to my left who began picking the pills off the fabric of her holiday blouse with great vigor and rhythm, though I was rather sure this contravened one of the rules of the holiday by being a type of ripping, something the observant don't do on Festival days. I could have reminded her, but feared she'd think I was an alien for being so picayune. Since I didn't know how she'd take my reminder, I stowed the words and tried hard not to look.
I brought a pashmina throw with me to keep me warm in case the air conditioner was too cold, but also to serve as a kind of prayer rug for the full-body bow we do on Rosh Hashana during the Aleinu prayer. I had the throw slung over the back of my chair. The girl behind me used my chair as a ballast, holding on to my pashmina with her hands. I came home and said to Dov, "If the person in front of you had a cardigan over the back of their chair, would you grip the cardigan while you were praying?"
He was appalled. Nice vindication for what I felt. But I wasn't supposed to be feeling that way!!! Not on Rosh Hashana!! Not at all, truth is, but I am this person!!
Okay, that wasn't bad enough. She kicked my chair. So, I scooted up an inch. She moved with me to continue her kicking and we repeated this little dance until I could advance no further. *sigh*
Perfume-doused lady's rude children stumbled in and out of the crowded aisles stepping on my toes at least 5 times while Chanel Number Too Much said not a word to her kids.
I work on myself. I really do. I know Hashem places these people around me at the holidays for a reason. The best I can say of myself is that I tried to distract myself by focusing harder on the text. I tried not to judge people. I aimed for understanding.
I wish I knew why these issues seem to irritate me so much but not the others around me. I wish I weren't like this, but I am. *sigh*
May you be judged favorably and be inscribed in the Book of Life.