A new year. Never in the history of all the Jewish New Years in my 49 years of life, has the concept of a “new year” had more significance than this one.
When you are in school, you learn all about the Jewish new year. The apples and the honey, and a plethora of melodies to combine the two. The honey is for a sweet new year. I am not really sure about the apple (hopefully the teachers who taught me the origin of the apple are not reading this — unfortunately it is probably because they are no longer with us). We get a new fruit to signify the beginning of a new year. This year, because husband #1 doesn’t eat any fruit, I decided to save money on the seven dollar prickly whozzitfruit (not its real name) and just buy a nectarine. I haven’t had one all year — and husband #1 has never had one — so I will save the money for my 50th birthday present and call it a day.
Some people — I think my father-in-law is one of them — eats the head of a fish. It’s also about starting out the year “a head.” Get it? A head? At least it is the head of a fish and not a cow. Yuck. But people have their beliefs (not to be confused with superstitions, because we are not a superstitious people. I even gave up reading my horoscope when I got married because husband #1 was so opposed to it. And, I guess marrying him was the ultimate horoscope fulfillment of “you will find love”…to be read with slight sarcasm…)
But this year has been quite the doozy. For me, it started out great. Son #1 and dil #1 got married right before the Jewish new year, so not only did they survive their first year of marriage, dil #1 survived her first year of marriage that included living with me for a few weeks in the beginning of quarantine! Now that is something worth celebrating! Of course this past new year brought other trials and tribulations. I had my “episode” in December, when I woke up in the back of an ambulance with no recollection of how I got there. My dad was back in the hospital, back in rehab and, unfortunately, not ever back to himself. And the whole world has been subject to the 2020 version of the Spanish flu. Perhaps if I had paid more attention in history class, I would have been a little more prepared, but truth is, I don’t think it would have made a difference.
Six months into this disaster, people are still ashamed to be honest about whether they have had it. Heavens forbid we should get the name of a person, so we or our kids can know if they came in contact with the person. People — it isn’t a sexually transmitted disease — you didn’t get it because you were cheating on your spouse! There is nothing to be ashamed of! And while I am on this tirade, when you are outside walking WEAR A FREAKIN MASK!!!!!! At least wear it around your neck so you can pull it up if someone walks by you. Jeez louise. Sorry, went off track again.
Everything is going to be different in the way we celebrate starting this new year. Shofar blowing will be performed differently, no wanna-be-chazzans will be trying their best to sing for hours, company isn’t supposed to be had. Lots of people will be alone…again. Not the ideal situation. The real question is, will our prayers be different? After many of us have faced life or death situations, will we be different? Better? Kinder? More patient? Will we say the words with meaning and not just by rote? Will be be true to any resolutions or promises we make to God? Did we learn any lessons from anything that happened this year or do we just go back to being the miserable, self centered humans of years past?
Human nature dictates the latter, unfortunately. But, perhaps, even if we all make just one small change, a teeny tiny adjustment — a smile or a wave or a quarter in the tzedakah box — perhaps all those changes can add up to something extraordinary.
Wishing all of you a healthy and happy and sweet and prosperous and magical new year.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is hoping to learn how to keep her mouth shut this year, but it is doubtful that it will happen. But she will try her best.