LOSING (AND TRYING TO FIND) MY SPIRITUALITY
Updated: Dec 17, 2018
A few months ago, there was an article in a publication called Kveller about how having kids changed a mother’s relationship with Judaism. The author spoke about replacing adult services with the children’s service. She spoke about her own personal practice, ritual and meaning slipping away. I remember reading this article several times through when it first came out - not totally comprehending. I reread is several times recently, as we are in the midst of the Jewish Holidays. This is my attempt to process and unpack how I’m feeling about my own spirituality, as a mother.
A little background - it has been said by some of my friends that few people love being Jewish like as Jared and me. I’ve always gotten a kick out of this. I love being Jewish. I love our community, our peoplehood, our traditions, and our rituals. I specifically love being a Jew in The United States; where there are many different avenues of religious expression available to me. I love to experience all types of Judaism - whether it’s an entire Shabbat spent with Orthodox friends (phones turned off and dressed modestly) or at the Confirmation Service at a Reform synagogue where the students are encouraged to question their belief in Gd at all. I love to learn about different Jews laws and customs and find ways that they can be personally meaningful to me.
The extent to which I’ve actively engaged in Jewish life has varied over the years. There were years that I attended synagogue weekly and years where I didn’t step into a sanctuary other than the Holidays. Jared grew up going to services weekly and he was anxious to begin that tradition for our family. I was happy to oblige and welcomed the ‘excuse’ to be a more active part of our synagogue community, and once Avi was old enough we starting bringing him to Saturday morning services.
I never even attempted to bring Avi into the adult service and that never bothered me. I love experiencing Judaism through his little eyes and through all of the children in the room. I love watching them sing and dance and experience Judaism in this pure and beautiful form. Jared sometimes bounces between the main service and the children’s service, but my spiritual cup was being filled. This was my perspective the first time I read the Kveller article.
As I prepared for Rosh Hashanah (the beginning of the Jewish new year which we celebrated just this past week) I figured I would have the same experience. Our synagogue offers babysitting, so I assumed I would drop Avi off, enjoy some adult time in the main service, take him to the kid’s service for an hour and everything would be great. We would all get what we needed. In reality, I spent less than 20 minutes in the main service. We left home later than we had planned, Avi had a harder time in babysitting than I had hoped, and by the time the children’s service was over, Avi was exhausted and starving. I left synagogue feeling sad and feeling a little defeated. It seemed like no one got what the needed from the holiday. Avi was so overwhelmed by the crowds and babysitting environment that he couldn’t enjoy his service. I was so stressed about his well being that I couldn’t enjoy any of it - his service or mine. I reread the Kveller article and this time, I got it.
I believe in my heart that is possible for me to keep my spirituality as a mom. I believe that with some effort, I will be able to build new traditions and customs that have meaning for our entire family. But I also acknowledge that my relationship to Judaism, like so many things in my life, must change and adapt. I will have to decide what rituals and customs work for us as a family unit - what we will hold on to, what we will let go of, and what will morph into something different but still beautiful.
Next week is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Finding meaning in our ritual fast is always a challenge for me, but it is a challenge I’ve actually looked forward to in recent years. This year will undoubtedly be more difficult - instead of immersing myself in prayer, I will be chasing after Avi. I will be acutely aware of my physical discomfort and I anticipate very little time for self-reflection. And so my only goal for Yom Kippur is to do my best. I will try to steal moments of self-reflection. I will try to find meaning in the act of chasing a toddler down a busy hallway. I will do my best not to feel discouraged if I fail at either or both and find no deeper meaning than exhaustion. I will be kind to myself if at 4pm, with a headache and a screaming child, I need a glass of water. I will change and adapt and I will do my best. And the good news is that every year, I’ll get another chance to practice.