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Lifetakes: Status Change

“So, Ma,” my 17-year-old asked again that year. “Are you going to shul for the whole davening?”

Thursday, October 06, 2016

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It had been close to 30 years since I’d been in shul for the High Holidays. Many women sigh with regret when they realize they haven’t seen the inside of a shul in decades. They look forward to the time they’ll be able to do so. Some women take turns babysitting their neighbors’ children so they can snatch an hour or two in shul. I’d never been one of those women. I viewed my foray back into the world of shul with trepidation.

My baby, Elisheva, was nine years old. For some years, her older siblings had been nudging me about going to shul on Yom Kippur, not to mention Rosh Hashanah.

“So, Ma,” my 17-year-old asked again that year. “Are you going to shul for the whole davening?” Elisheva may not have needed diapering and hands-on attention, but she was still not old enough to babysit herself, nor was her 11-year-old brother. However, there was another reason I wasn’t keen on running off to shul for Yom Kippur. You see, that would have signified the end of an era that I was not completely ready to relinquish. Joining the shul-going women would announce my change of status, from hands-on mom, to the next stage.

So I took it slow. For the previous few years, I’d gone to shul for shofar on Rosh Hashanah and then stayed to daven Mussaf. I supplied Elisheva with a bag of nosh, which works quite well for the 15–20 minutes of the silent Amidah. After that, it was back to the skirt pulling and “I’m bored” every two minutes. As I smugly left, I looked around at the teenagers and young singles and the bubbies. I’m not one of them, I assured myself. I’m still firmly ensconced in my young child-rearing stage.

That year, however, everything changed. My married daughter, who was expecting, was coming with her husband to our house for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Her rav forbade her from attending shul when fasting and told her to take it easy on Rosh Hashanah, as well. She graciously offered to watch Elisheva when she was home and keep an eye on my son roaming in and out. So when my older kids asked if I was going to shul for the Yamim Noraim, I really had no excuse to say no.

Elisheva had no qualms about me staying in shul for the whole Mussaf on Rosh Hashanah. She barely heard me explain that Rina would be home watching her, as she skipped out the door to play with a friend. So I went. And that’s when I realized that sitting in shul for three hours straight is like being asked to go back to school and sit in class after being out for 30 years. (Even then I could barely sit through class.)

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