Hooky on the High Holidays
Aspen, CO Colorado
It’s only 48 hours into 5768, but the Jewish New Year is already off to an inauspicious start for me.
I wouldn’t exactly call myself a model Jew. Let’s just say there isn’t a strong chance God will ever have me carry on the tradition he started with Abraham and ask for the sacrifice of my firstborn on Mt. Moriah ” and trust me, it’s not just because I have no idea where it is or how much water I would need to pack for the trek.
Still, I make an effort to practice my own brand of Judaism every year. I light candles during Hanukkah, and on rare occasions, Shabbat. I eat macaroons and gefilte fish and ask and/or answer the four questions on Passover. I try to avoid consuming dairy products and meat at the same meal, or at least during the same course.
My crowning achievement on the Jewish calendar, though, always comes during the High Holidays, at which time I attend services on Rosh Hashanah and fast on Yom Kippur. I have an unofficial streak of never having missed a Rosh Hashanah service. That includes the semester in college I spent in Bath, England, and had to take a train to Bristol to attend a service in an elementary school classroom, because that was the nearest location of both a Torah and someone who could read from it (with a British accent, no less).
Growing up, I had a love/hate relationship with the High Holidays. I loved that they meant a few days off from school. They always seemed to coincide with an Indian summer, so I could lounge outside in the autumn sunshine until it was time to get dressed up for the company who would gather at my parents’ house. Everyone would sit around chatting in the den until my mom served a big homemade dinner in the dining room. Afterwards we’d go to synagogue.
I hated going to services. Up until I was 11 or 12, my parents begrudgingly allowed me to leave the sanctuary a few minutes after the start of the service to wreak havoc in the temple basement with the other kids in attendance. After a few hours the kids would duck back in and sit down just before the service concluded, with the parents collectively shaking their heads in disapproval.
After my bat mitzvah, the expectation was for me to stay seated during services. Fortunately as I got older, I managed to use the boredom that set in during services to numb me into a coma-like state. I would just remind myself ” repeatedly ” that I only had to endure it once a year.
Even though I now miss out on the best part of the holidays ” being with my family ” because I live 1,993 miles away (although fortunately a very loving family only 24 miles away graciously adopts me for just about every Jewish occasion) ” I still go to services every year. I even enjoy services (well, almost) because they remind me of home. Attending is my way of staying connected to my family and giving a nod of respect and appreciation to my upbringing.
Until this year, that is. My High Holidays’ attendance record came to an abrupt end two days ago.
I had every intention of going to services on Thursday morning, but the fact that it was Rosh Hashanah escaped me entirely weeks earlier when trying to arrange a meeting at work with four other people. My availability seemed to be the most limited, so I agreed to meet Thursday morning without asking myself why I had nothing else scheduled at that time. By the time I figured out the conflict, it was too late to reschedule.
After panicking, I breathed a sigh of relief, realizing I could still redeem myself next week during Yom Kippur. I’d fast and go to services and all would be right in my Jewish world.
Except then I looked at my calendar and saw I’d be in Louisiana during Yom Kippur. At an LSU-South Carolina football game. While I wasn’t there when it was being written, I didn’t need a copy of the Old Testament to know that waving a purple and gold foam finger was probably not what God had in mind when establishing how to spend the Day of Atonement.
But, my place in the Book of Life is not lost just yet. The game is scheduled for 7:45 p.m., so I can conceivably fast and go to services at the Beth Shalom synagogue in Baton Rouge (although due to construction, Yom Kippur services are actually being held in the Baptist church next door). By game time, the sun should be setting and I’ll be free to sneak a flask into the dry stadium with the 93,000 other ticket holders.
The only possible catch now is that earlier this week, CBS exercised its six-day selection privilege, which means they may move next Saturday’s LSU night game to the afternoon so it can be televised nationally. Which means I’ll likely be the only tailgater able to walk a straight line while whistling Dixie at halftime. (Not attending the game is not an option. While Judaism is my religion, LSU Football is my husband’s, and he only gets to pray in his temple once every few years when we make the trip down South.)
“Whatever you decide,” my dad pleaded softly. “Just don’t eat a hot dog.”
“You can’t go to an LSU game and not eat a Tiger Dog,” my husband’s brother, an even more avid fan, exclaimed. “They’re the best.”
We’ll see what happens tomorrow when CBS announces its decision. Either way, I’m just praying now that the hot dogs are kosher.