Rosh Hashanah is the start of the Jewish Year. As our calendar is lunar, the Jewish holidays float around and this year the holiday begins tonight, September 13. Rosh Hashanah is a major holiday, on which we observe most of the restrictions and rules that traditional Jews observe on Sabbath, refraining from the use of telephones, cars, electricity and work and attending services and being with family for special meals and, if you’re lucky, a nap or two. (GrokNation will not be adding new content and will be absent from social media until after the holiday Tuesday night – but we look forward to reconnecting with you then.)
I have always loved Rosh Hashanah since I was old enough to understand it. We eat apples dipped in honey (or agave for the vegans among us), we bake honey cake (or agave cake in my case), the melodies for prayers in synagogue are particularly touching and meaningful, and it’s a time for self-reflection and amends-making in all relationships. It’s a powerful time mystically, and it is a beautiful time of year.
This year is different. This year is my first Rosh Hashanah since my father died. And as I have learned, Grief touches everything. Grief neither sleeps nor slumbers. She is with me forever. Perhaps not as intensely as she grips me now, but she is now part of my life and eternal existence as long as I am alive and my father is not.
And so it goes that Grief is following me into the beginning of a New Year. I tried to leave her behind, but she is stuck to me.
I will do what my grief counselor/Rabbi has encouraged me to do since my father left this world: my best. I will do my best. I will prepare. I will bake with my mother and plan menus with my ex and decide whose house gets to host first night and whose house gets second night and which one of us will cook what and who will make the sweet carrots and what about those tiny apples so each of our boys can hold one and make the blessing over the round fruit reminding us that this world and this life just keep going round and round and round.
I will do all of those things to the best of my ability. But I wish I could skip it this year, all of it. Too much emotion, too much togetherness when I want to grieve alone in a cave in the middle of a desert somewhere. This holiday has too much sweetness, too much hope and light and goodness when it still feels hopeless and dark and bad to have my dad dead.
I am already grateful for my ex, because he will – divorce or not – shoulder the emotional burden of having his sons’ mother grieving through all of the joyousness he finds for himself and our sons. I am grateful my mom is grieving too because I won’t be the only one having a rough go of it as we light candles and as I make the blessing over the wine – my father’s favorite blessing he remembered from his childhood. I will find the words caught deep in my throat when the candles are lit and the blessing has to be made. I will find my raspy voice and the Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) accent I learned from hearing my father recite the words for so many years. “You sound just like your father!” they will tell me.
I am certain there will be things to enjoy. But like everything Grief touches, I will experience yet another day that is hard to get through and so I will get through it. I will find a way to just get through the day. As best as I can. Because it is joyous to start again. And it is joyous to celebrate what is sweet.
According to Jewish liturgical texts, “Today the world was created.” And although my Grief creates everything anew, so, too, we can be made new with every passing year.
Wishing you a shanah tovah (a happy new year).
(This is part of an ongoing series by Mayim Bialik chronicling her journey through the year of mourning following her father’s death in April 2015. For previous pieces in this series, click here.)