This is the first year I will be hosting Rosh Hashanah dinner with my newly married daughter and her Christian husband. We raised Jenny to be accepting, tolerant, with traditional Jewish values.
We hoped she would marry within our faith, but she met John, who loves her dearly and is a good man. Now being Jewish has taken a back seat. I want my grandchildren to be raised Jewish, but I can’t say anything. I want to be accepting, but the religious differences upset me. I want to make this dinner meaningful and would love some tips.
More Than Just Dinner
Dear More Than Just Dinner,
I understand that this relationship was not what you envisioned, but it’s your reality and you can only say and do so much.
Of course, you can host a lovely, traditional Rosh Hashanah dinner with the religious customs like apples and honey, pomegranate as new fruit, Kiddush, benching after the meal, accompanied by an explanation of why you are doing each step. This will not only educate John, but these traditions that have become part of our lives, have a spiritual meaning that surpass the boundaries of Judaism alone.
Explain what you are doing and turn the conversation to your guests by going around the table and letting them discuss what will be new for each of them this year, what they would like to change in the coming year and what they would like to leave behind from last year.
Make it more inclusive and meaningful for someone who doesn’t understand the Jewish New Year is nothing like the new year that comes in on Jan. 1. Rosh Hashanah is not a “party” holiday, it is introspective, reflective and one of the holiest days in the Jewish faith. Be creative and loving and don’t treat John any differently. Embrace him at your table, nurture and teach him to discover our ways and the reason we do what we do. I think you may bridge the gap by being spiritual. There is no human being who does not reflect, regret, repent and hope. He will feel the caring and Jenny will appreciate the effort. As a result, you may have one of the most meaningful Rosh Hashanah dinners ever. Shanah Tovah U’metukah – A happy and sweet new year.
I am Jewish, but not observant. I’m not totally sure I even believe in God. But on the High Holidays I go to synagogue out of respect for my grandfather, who is a Holocaust survivor. He doesn’t live his life day to day as an observant Jew, but he does pray often, goes to synagogue and lives a Jewish lifestyle. Every year I go, and something affects me deep down. I watch him cry into his prayer book, and all of a sudden, I find myself praying to God too. The God I just said I wasn’t sure I believed in. I find myself asking for forgiveness and listening intently to what the rabbi says. I feel like the biggest hypocrite. When I’m at synagogue I do feel Jewish, but the second I step out, it’s back to real life. Odd, right?
Am I A Believer
Dear Am I A Believer
Jews come in many forms. The kind of Jew you are will be decided by you alone. As you grow up, your parents do their best to teach you what’s important to them, in the hopes you will become a good person and, in some cases, a religious one as well. Humans were blessed with the ability to think and choose.
Just from your short letter, I can tell quite a bit about you. You are a respectful person, one who does not make decisions lightly and who realizes that decisions have consequences. Whatever you do as a Jew, you do from your heart with honesty and integrity. That makes it meaningful. There are observant Jews who may go through the motions, but in day to day life, they may be dishonest in their dealings with people. Which would you rather be?
Only you have control of your spirituality and it comes in many forms. You must be comfortable in your choices and do what’s best for you. Perhaps if you allow yourself to explore this part of you that only comes out in shul, you may find you are more observant than you believe.