When I was asked to write a piece about what the High Holidays mean to me, I immediately thought about what I do during this time. It’s around the first month of school, I spend a lot of time with my family, and one thing that juts out the most to me, is that I learn all about it in school.
Every year, from the tender age of three, I have been learning what we, as Jews, are supposed to do on Rosh Hashana, what we are supposed to think about, different traditions, and prayers meant for this special time of year. I have always been curious as to why the Jewish day schools I have attended have always taught about the same interpretations each year, going slightly more in depth as we age. I always just assumed that it was because Rosh Hashana was nearing, and there really were not that many days of school to start real material.
So when I started to really think about the High Holidays for this piece, I realized why. When three or four of your 10 classes are teaching about these holidays and their importance, you’re practically surrounded by it. There is no possible way you can say that you do not know what you are supposed to do, because you cannot escape it, and after a while, you are eager to be involved. Learning the same topics each year was something I could never fully comprehend until now.
Under the crazy circumstances of this year, I am the only full-time-remote-learning-senior at Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway High School. My family has also made the decision to not attend synagogue this year, due to worries of Covid-19. This means that rather than having the enormous 30-person meal we are accustomed to, there will only be a table set for four.
When I first thought about this, I was extremely unhappy. Typically, my cousins come for a meal and we all eat together to bring in the new year. However, when I continued to think about it, this year will change the meaning of Rosh Hashana, or at least put it into perspective. This year, the holidays will not be about buying a new outfit for synagogue or slaving for days to make a delicious meal for a great deal of family members.
This year I will be stuck at home with my immediate family. However, this will, hopefully, be different than the past six months. This year will truly be about self-reflection, rather than changing how you look for other people. It will be about changing and working on myself, for the better. Rather than “making the best under these circumstances,” I want to change how I think and feel about Rosh Hashana forever.