warning: long post -- too much work to break it up into two posts!
We were planning to go away for Simchat Torah. We always go to Katamon/Baka for Simchat Torah, because that is where I know I will be able to celebrate the way I want (without having to make a fuss!).
I like going to Shir Hadash at night, where the women dance with a Sefer Torah for all the hakafot (rounds of dancing) and there is good ruach (spirit) and energetic dancing for women. In the morning, I love to go to my women's tefillah group, Shirat Sarah, which has a really unique davening (prayer service) and also a lot of ruach.
I am not a particularly spiritual person. I am much more of a rationalist, and rather conservative about the way I like to daven (pray). But I have come to appreciate the creative outlet that Simchat Torah provides for the women in our women's tefillah community. Out of the seven hakafot, about half are "traditional" and the other half are "alternative" -- sometimes the woman leading the hakafah will teach a song, or give a small vort (telling a d'var torah or sharing a parable), or sometimes she will even do some sort of new-agey meditation or excersize. I am not really into the new-agey stuff, but I can tolerate it once a year. It clearly appeals to some women, so it is nice for them to have an opportunity to express that side of their religiousity from within the community.
When I am there, I am quite active. I read "v'zot hab'racha" every year and I have led one of the the traditional hakafot for several years now.
This year, I was honored to be asked if I had ever been Kallat Torah or Kallat B'reishit. I did have the honor, several years ago, of Kallat B'reishit, so I declined the honor. It was immeasurably powerful to read the beginning of B'reishit. Since then, it has been my desire to also read the final p'sukim of the Torah.
This year's Kallat Torah is not interested in reading, so I am scheduled to read for her! I do not particularly desire the honor of the aliyah, I am just so excited to finally be reading the the final p'sukim of the Torah!!
The truth is, reading this part of the Torah is more challenging than I expected. Whereas the beginning of the Torah is full of promise, the end of the Torah is really sad. God's final words to Moshe Rabbeinu are heartwrenching: "This is the land that I swore to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, saying 'to your progeny I will give it. I have shown it to you, [that you should see it] with your eyes, but there you will not pass." (translation and emphasis mine)
In my current, heightened state of emotions, it is difficult for me to read that passage without crying. After all he has done for God and for the Jewish people, in order to bring them to the Land of Israel, "you will not go there" are the last words that Moshe hears before he dies, there, on that spot, overlooking the land he so desperately wanted to enter.
I hope (and pray) I can do the reading justice.
I feel so torn over this Simchat Torah. My voice has not yet fully returned, making practicing very difficult. In addition to being diligent about reading the words and notes correctly, it is important to me to read loudly and clearly. When I read, I really feel like I am transmitting the word of God; that should be done with a certain amount of strength and power. My normally booming voice is still not strong.
I am praying that I will read the aliyah well. It is more important to me than anything else that I am planning to do at the tefillah.
But what about my family?
My daughter still had a high fever (103 F / 39.4 C) last night. Because of the whole swine flu thing, the doctor on call recommended that we do not take her out until she has been at least 24 hours without a fever.
Moshe knows how important Simchat Torah is to me, and is encouraging me to go with our son, while he stays home with our daughter.
But then our whole family will be all over the place.
As is, my eldest is going to K'far Yonah, with her youth group, to spread the joy of Torah (Simchat Torah) to the community there. This will be the second year that she is not with us for Simchat Torah. After last year, I hoped she might choose to rejoin me. Apparently, making other people happy is more important to her than dancing with a Sefer Torah. I am proud that she is so giving, though I will still miss her.
If I stick with our original plan, my husband will stay home with our youngest daughter (added bummer: I have to cook, even though I am going away!), and our son will sleep at his friend's home, where we are invited for lunch. It will be more comfortable for my son to attend shul with his friend and his friend's father, rather than with me or my/our host, who he does not know so well.
I wish we were not spread out like this. I wonder if this is all a sign that we should just stay home. But I do not really believe in "signs." And I know that I would just be so disappointed (and probably frustrated) about missing Simchat Torah the way I want it.
I am way past the stage of "fighting" for a Sefer Torah, or being the main motivator for women's dancing and singing. I did that for years. Now, I just want to come and participate and enjoy the chag (holiday). I can do that if I go where I always go.
So, I am going. Even if it means going on my own. At least I will be with good friends. And I will be with my son for lunch.
It will be a mixed experience. Not quite as happy, without my family.
I am grateful for my husband's understanding and encouragement. I would not do this on my own otherwise. As I am constantly emphasizing to my kids, holidays are family time.
update: I just spoke with my family doctor. Aliza's fever was down this morning, below 100. He thinks she should avoid shul tonight, but could be a guest, even for all of Shabbat, as long as our hosts are comfortable with it. We might be together, after all!
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,
more observations from the USA (Chicago day 4-5)
13 hours ago