Friday, September 6, 2013

Lutherans Celebrating Rosh Hashanah

I was only vaguely aware of Jewish holidays before I moved to South Florida. In South Carolina, we didn't always get standard holidays, like Memorial Day, off; we certainly didn't get any non-Christian religious holidays.

My first year here, I was happily surprised to find out that we got both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as holidays at the community college where I worked. Public schools are closed. My college, alas, doesn't have those days as holidays. But I do have a schedule that can often be flexible.

So on Sunday, when a group of church friends who teach in the public schools talked about how to spend their Rosh Hahanah holiday, the subject of the beach came up. I reminded my friends that we now live half a mile from the beach. We talked about parking at my house, where the parking is free. We decided to check back in with each other at mid-week.

And that's how I came to spend my Rosh Hashanah morning at the beach yesterday. What a treat! One friend has a 4th grade daughter who came too, so we spent lots of time building a sand castle, digging a big hole, looking for shells, and creating towers of sand. We spent less time in the ocean as the surf was rough, and the occasional jellyfish spooked us.

We met a friendly boy who seemed about the age of the 4th grader.  We invited him to come dig with us.  He asked, "Are you Jewish?"

We said no, and he said he is.  We talked about how he'd celebrate this holiday.  One of my friends said, "Aren't you supposed to sit quietly on this holiday?"

He said, "No, that's the next one."

I said, "Yom Kippur, right?"  He nodded.  We moved on to other topics, like the best public library.

I already had Rosh Hashanah on the brain, but not enough so that I made an apple cake or something traditional. I know that people eat sweets on this holiday in the hopes of having an upcoming year that's sweet. Does the same hold true for other kinds of invitations? Should we be doing activities on Rosh Hashanah that we hope to invite into our lives for the rest of the year?

I'm not sure that's a real Jewish tradition, but I like the idea of it. If so, I spent much of yesterday in activities that I hope to see increase in the coming year.

I started even before my friends arrived. I got some writing done. I had some time reading a book. My day was book-ended with quality time with my spouse.

Even work was good. I got some annual reviews completed, and all of my department members are doing good work and doing it well, so that activity isn't onerous. I evaluated some transcripts for transfer credit. I did some problem solving. It was pleasant.

When I got home from work, my spouse was ready for a break, so we put on our walking shoes and headed back to the beach. There's an organic brewery at the beach that we both like, and we discovered that Monday through Friday, the pizza is half price. We put in our order and finished our walk while our pizza was being prepared.

It must have been meet delightful children day--is that part of Rosh Hashanah?  As we walked down the stairs, a 4 year old girl with a head full of long, dark curls followed us.  I didn't see a worried parent anywhere.  I turned to say, "Does your mom and dad know that you're coming down the stairs?"

She smiled and nodded, and then I saw her mom leaning over the rail as the girl giggled and scampered back.  And then, two blocks later, we saw a boy, slightly older, wearing a Superman cape and holding a Spiderman glove.

He held out his hand in a stop posture.  He said, "You're not allowed to laugh at me."

We said, "We would never do that!"

What a magical night.  Our pizza was just coming out of the oven when we returned, and it was surprisingly good.  We shared pizza and beer as we watched the light shift with the setting sun.

Yes, I'd like more of these Rosh Hashanah activities in my coming year. I'd like more time at the beach. I'd like to spend more time with friends. I'd like more quality time with my spouse. I'd like time to watch the sea and the light change the color of the clouds.

It's not the traditional Rosh Hashanah sweetness of apples dipped in honey, but it was plenty sweet for me!

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