For the past year and a half, I have had a surrogate granddaughter. I have written about her before. I am her babysitter, and she is my bff. Yes, my bff is almost 7 years old, and I am quite proud of that. When you are almost 7, you have a countdown to your birthday. This is why we are bffs, because I am not almost 7, and yet, I, too, have a countdown to my birthday every year. Though we are on the same level intellectually, she is much more mature than I am.
Anyway, I had the privilege and honor of attending her siddur play this past weekend.
For those of you not familiar with the term “siddur play,” it is the ceremony you have in first grade when you get your first siddur, or prayer book. I distinctly remember my siddur play in Yavneh Academy. I wore a red dress with red ribbons in my pigtails (because my mother always made me have coordinating clothes and hair accessories; the scars from that probably are why I dress like a homeless person now) and I remember the “Aleph Bet” song that I sang. I sang it for my bff, and then she sang me the 2021 version — same letters, different tune. She also taught me all the hand movements for her upcoming performance. I was so excited about seeing the whole thing come together in person.
Fun fact, for those of you who don’t know (and I apologize if you don’t really care) I am a parent of one of the members of the first graduating class of Yeshivas Noyam (Yeshivat Noam to the non-oreos of our catchment area). Which means that I attended the school’s very first siddur play almost 19 years ago. As a first time parent, to me Son #1’s siddur play was akin to him receiving a Nobel Peace Prize. You write a message to your child that goes into the cover of the siddur. You try to make it as poignant and meaningful as you can, but also on a level that your 7-year-old will understand. Factor in that it is a boy reading this message — unless you put something about sports in it, it is totally lost on him anyway. Clearly, this was not the case with my genius because, fast forward almost 19 years, and he takes his siddurs very, very seriously. Anyway, I cannot even begin to describe all of the upgrades that have taken place in this siddur play in 19 years. Putting aside the fact that I was the oldest person in the audience (and only because the “real” grandparents were watching on zoom) the technological advances in siddur plays is nothing short of astounding. The screens, the microphones, the musical accompaniment — it was like being at a concert at Madison Square Garden. (OK, I am exaggerating — but not that much.)
Of course, watching this performance made me think about the passage of time. About all of the things that have happened in the past 19 years-to my family and to the world at large, and then that took me to a very sad place.
As I was watching this siddur play, filled with excited children and beaming parents, filled with hope and joy, I couldn’t help but think of my Son #3 in Israel. He was in Meron on Lag B’omer with some of his friends. He was there. He saw things that no one should ever have to see at any age. I am grateful that his yeshiva has reached out to all of the boys who were there to offer counsel. I listen when he talks — about how he feels, about the funeral of the sweet, sweet boy from our community who was taken. About the randomness of those who died, who were from different backgrounds and communities. About the tragedy of it all.
It is amazing how many emotions you can experience in such a short amount of time. The ability to gain perspective on how short life is, even though sometimes it feels like you have all of the time in the world. To talk to people you love, to forgive people, to have gratitude for even the little things. So what does all of it mean? To truly enjoy the good things, to let others know you are thinking of them, and to hope that God sends each of us what we need.
May the innocent, beautiful prayers of the newest siddur owners somehow bring comfort to those who need it.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is grateful.