Yesterday was the holiest day in the Jewish Calendar, Yom Kippur. Ten days ago we celebrated our new year, (Rosh HaShanah), and Yom Kippur is the culmination of ten days of reflection and introspection; we reflect on the year that has past; about our actions which may have caused hurt, our inactions which may have done the same, and on Yom Kippur we pray to God for forgiveness, and for another chance to try better in the year ahead.
In the community there is a guy who I highly respect, and am lucky enough to meet with for coffee regularly. We meet in the guise of planning a series of events for the synagogue community, but we also have a good catch up about life, the universe and everything in-between as well. When we met last week, he told me he was worried about me. Taken aback, I enquired why. He answered, ‘Because you rush around too much. I see it all around me, and it worries me. You are rushing so much you don’t have a chance to do things properly.’ Gosh. I was quite taken aback. My initial reaction was to get defensive, argue that I was fine thank you very much, and I did think I was doing things well (enough) thank you very much, and drink up my coffee and leave promptly. But there was a little niggle. It was the same niggle that I had when I rushed in to our chosen cafe five minutes late to meet him, and the same niggle I had when the day before I had left someone else I had an appointment with waiting at my door for five minutes because I had chatted with another mum on the school run so was running late. He was speaking the truth, it hurt, but there it was. His voice was ringing in my ears for the rest of the week, and I determined that in this new year, I would rush less and do things better.
In synagogue yesterday, I sat next to another person I highly respect,and am lucky enough to consider a friend. During the service, at the reading of a section of our holy book, the Torah (a.k.a Five Books of Moses, or Old Testament), a list of laws was read. She turned to me and said, ‘my mother always told me to do this one – the wages of a labourer shall not remain with you until morning (Lev 19:13) – that’s why I always have cash for the cleaner.’ And there was that niggle again. She had highlighted, on the holiest day of the Jewish year, that niggle I had each time I said those words, ‘I’m sorry I don’t have the cash, can I pay you next week?’ Another truth that I was determined to improve upon this year.
During one of the small breaks yesterday, another person who I highly respect was sitting just behind me, and I turned and we chatted. She asked how the kids were. I answered that I didn’t really know as I had stormed out of the house to get to synagogue on time, leaving my husband to sort them out and bring them later. I expected raised eyebrows, and shock, but she replied with a wise smile, ‘Yes I remember doing the exact same thing one year, and all the way to synagogue all I could think about was how ironic it was.’ I almost started crying as that was EXACTLY what I had been thinking in my stomping march to synagogue earlier. I was trying my hardest to get to synagogue on time, but in doing so I had abandoned (or so it felt; for the record my husband did a sterling job getting them all there in one piece with everything they needed for the day) my family, which surely very high up on my list of things to get right. That same niggle niggled again as I determined to have more patience with my kids, and try to get the balance right of being a mother, wife and good Jew at the same time.
So I want to say thank you to the community members who made Yom Kippur meaningful to me yesterday, in the most surprising of ways, and hope that for those of you reading this, you are fortunate enough to also have friends or people in your lives who can speak truths to you, and that you are able to listen and act upon them.