Meredith C. Carroll: Playing hooky on the High Holidays
Meredith Pro Tem
It’s only eight days 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 a few thousand miles away, 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 last week, at which time I forgot about services. I panicked, but realized I could still redeem myself this weekend during Yom Kippur. I’d fast and go to services and all would be right in my Jewish world.
Except then I remembered 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. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, so I can go to services at the Beth Shalom synagogue in Baton Rouge (although due to construction, services are actually being held in the Baptist church next door) and then make it in time for the game. However, since I’ll be fasting, I’ll be the only one of the 93,000 ticket holders not sneaking a flask into the dry stadium. (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 do,” 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.”
I suppose it doesn’t matter now if the hot dogs are kosher.
Aspen resident Meredith C. Carroll writes a Friday column. E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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