I rummage through my closet looking for an appropriate outfit, not an easy thing for a girl who spends her life in gym clothes and sneakers. I try on at least three different ensembles, but ultimately settle on a 15 year-old black dress that I have worn for pretty much everything from bridal showers to funerals. Today, it’s my fall-back temple dress. Thank goodness for Express in the 90’s.
Shalom! School has begun. Fall is almost here. I am Jewish.
Of course I’m Jewish all year round, but in September we celebrate the high holidays – Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On Rosh Hashanah, we reflect on the past year, and on Yom Kippur our fate is sealed. Simply put, it’s finals week and report cards are coming.
Today, I’m supposed to be at the temple by 10am because I’ve been given an honor to open the ark encasing the Torah. It’s nice to be acknowledged, but I’m really no good at the religion stuff. I mean, I send my boys to Hebrew School, attend temple on the holidays and of course, wear my “I heart Jews” tee shirt (kidding); but I can’t read Hebrew, never was a Bat Mitzvah, and feel generally uncomfortable with all things religious. I once said “Jesus Christ” as I tripped into temple and practically fell into the Rabbi. Apparently, I am capable of offending multiple religions simultaneously. I also have said “Amen” to the Rabbi after he sneezed, and once in my flirty, uncomfortable-with-authority awkwardness, suggested to him that the reason it was hot in the temple was because of me. Oh yes I did.
I can’t imagine why they would put me up there on display, and I’m conflicted about why I even accepted. I don’t really want to go, but all I can do now is accept my honor, hopefully not fall off the stage, and then slip quietly into background, which is where I really wanted to be in the first place.
I glance at the clock. 9:45am. Crap. Howard and the boys will just have to meet me. It’s a seven minute walk, but I’m in heels so it’s more like 10 minutes. I start with a brisk pace, but slow down when I trip over the sidewalk and slightly twist my ankle. At 9:58am, I limp into the temple sanctuary and check in. “I made it!” I announce and the administrator hands me a card that says my time is 11:15am. What?? My paper said 10am. I show it to the administrator and he shrugs. What kind of racket is this?
I grab a prayer book and sit down in a semi-breathless huff. I notice the book is new and remember that the temple purchased new books a month or so ago, and that in a moment of sentimentality I had even donated $54 for one of the books to be dedicated to my grandmother who had recently passed.
I flip it open absently and there it is; my grandmother’s inscription. Out of 300 random books, I find my grandmother. Or more accurately, my grandmother finds me. I smile and look around like she’s just placed the book on my chair, but of course, it’s our secret.
The temple president is speaking, and I’m instructed to wait for her to finish before ascending the Bimah (platform). Her running theme is “Hineni” which translates to “Here I am.” She’s trying to inspire people get involved, while thanking the people who do. Hineni. I like it.
She finishes and up I go with a handful of other honorees. I open the ark, the Torah is brought forth, and we are instructed to follow the procession around the congregation. What? Me? No. I didn’t sign up for that. Open. Close. Done. But I’m ushered forward and immediately overwhelmed with people shaking my hand and offering Shana Tova.
Like writing LOL, I have never been comfortable saying Shana Tova. It always felt like I was pretending to be something I’m not. Happy New Year I can say, but here I am clasping hands with dozens of people and Shana Tova’ing like a game show host.
We finally end the procession back on the Bimah. The Torah is put away and the arc closed. I look out from the stage and see my boys, front and center watching me. Julius is dancing a little dance, Michael is bright-eyed and Tyler is smiling wide. I smile back and realize his fly is open. Oops, I think. Hineni.
I return to my seat, flushed and happy to be done. Howard and the boys are there and together we finish out the service. I look around at the congregation and see so many friends and familiar faces. My prayer book with my grandmother’s inscription rests on my lap. I feel warm and connected. Hineni. Here I am.