Friday, October 07, 2005

My Spiritual Selfishness

The first two years after my daughter was born I still tried to selfishly observe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the way I did when I was single. This misguided practice stayed with me for some time. At one point I even used to view children as an impediment to being able to observe a yom tov in the proper manner since children's interruptions made it difficult to get into a frame of mind where I could connect with the meaning of the day.

Over the past year I have changed my approach to yom tov. I realized how selfish I was and now do not feel complete if I am sitting in shul without my family. Since my wife and children are also "me", I am not really at shul unless they are there as well. I discovered that the most meaningful times on Rosh Hashanah are when I am together with my children, not when I am sitting alone with only a machzor in hand. While I might forget the two days of davening, I will always remember holding my son up in my arms singing Avinu Malkeinu or standing together with my daughter as we listened to the sound of the shofar.

Having young children is a constant lesson in bitul hayesh (nullification of self). I still cannot say that I am passing student in this class. Part of my old selfishness still remains, and I wonder how I will be able to observe Yom Kippur at shul with my children, confident that I am observing this day "properly".

18 Comments:

At October 7, 2005 at 6:50:00 AM EDT, Blogger Shoshana said...

I am sure that your children will never forget those moments either.

 
At October 7, 2005 at 6:53:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

G-d willing, I hope they remember as well.

Thank you for your comment, Shoshana. Have a wonderful Shabbos.

 
At October 7, 2005 at 7:58:00 AM EDT, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

A beautiful lesson. Iy"H, when I have children one day, I hope to be able to follow your example....I am glad you checked out 'laizer's blog. Yours and his are two of my favorites.

 
At October 7, 2005 at 8:17:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I am following his postings about his trip to Uman with great interest. For others who have not seen 'laizer's website, please visit:

http://wildernesscity.blogspot.com/

 
At October 7, 2005 at 8:24:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

"Having young children is a constant lesson in bitul hayesh (nullification of self)."

You said it brother. For a few weeks after Jacob was born I was still trying to live the old life along with the new life. No way. Misery for all. Once I just surrendered to the whole thing it got really much more fun and rewarding. Nothing makes a person spiritually clean house like a child. And then they change it up on you when you aren't looking and you need to be all flexible again.

 
At October 7, 2005 at 8:29:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Alice: You hit the nail on the head with your comment about flexibility. Having children also teaches a person the need to constantly adapt to new circumstances.

 
At October 7, 2005 at 9:13:00 AM EDT, Blogger torontopearl said...

"I discovered that the most meaningful times on Rosh Hashanah are when I am together with my children, not when I am sitting alone with only a machzor in hand. While I might forget the two days of davening, I will always remember holding my son up in my arms singing Avinu Malkeinu or standing together with my daughter as we listened to the sound of the shofar."

This is so true...this is what you'll remember and what the children will remember. They will remember being in awe of the sights and sounds associated with Rosh Hashanah, but will know that they were with their abba/tatty/daddy, and that is somewhat of a comfort level for them too. I remember 39 and 40 years ago when we davened in a shteeble--the bright lights, the sea of white talleisim and standing and sitting on hard wooden chairs oftentimes with my father as he davened, and hearing the magnificent awakening sound of the shofar while in my father's presence. Those visual memories will always be with me. (and the fact that I wore little white dress gloves to shul at that time!)

 
At October 7, 2005 at 9:32:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Pearl: As a mother, what do you do with your children on Yom Kippur?

Perhaps Mrs. Balabusta also needs to write a follow-up to this posting:

http://mrsbalabusta.blogspot.com/2005/10/rosh-hashana-primer.html

 
At October 7, 2005 at 11:31:00 AM EDT, Blogger torontopearl said...

THere have been those years when I wasn't able to go because of the age of the kids. I actually took the machzor at home to read or even learned something else.

My children are older now and if they're not davening by our side (this year the 2 older get seats), they are in organized shul programs.

 
At October 8, 2005 at 10:40:00 PM EDT, Blogger Anshel's Wife said...

We stayed at the Chabad House for Rosh Hashana and I was so stressed out. I don't think I was in the shul more than 30 minutes for both days. I was nervous with my little ones running around. Worried they were being too disruptive. Worried they'd pull down the mehitza. I was going to pretend to be asleep when birkas hacohanim came around the second day, but my friend told me that it's more important for my kids to be there and even to be disruptive than not to be there at all.

I'm nervous about going there for Yom Kippur, but I would hate to miss Kol Nidre and Neilah and I guess my friend is right. For the sake of my children's chinuch, they need to know that they should be in shul on Yom Tov.

 
At October 9, 2005 at 7:16:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear ASJ,

There is no doubt whatever that the most meaningful activity a parent can do with a child is TO MAKE MEMORIES. One of my fondest memories is having walked to shul on yom tov with my two sons during a torrential rainstorm; I mean the water was coming down in buckets. I can't be sure that the argument about earning extra mitzvah points made the walk any easier, but I do recall how enjoyable the experience was ... drippingly wet but enjoyable!

Sincerely yours,

Alan @TheBookofBen

 
At October 9, 2005 at 11:52:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

ASJ: Yeshiva experience and kavanna go out the window with kids. The bright side is that you learn a whole new dimension of relationship with G-d through your relationship with your children. Forgiveness and acceptance mean something totally different when you have your own children.

Gmar Chatima Tova.

 
At October 9, 2005 at 1:08:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yetta, Alan, and Jameel: I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experiences with me. It really helps me put things into better perspective.

 
At October 10, 2005 at 12:12:00 PM EDT, Blogger Philly Farmgirl said...

This was such beautiful post to read, especially since it came from a different vantage point than usual. You hear about this alot with us Immas so it is nice to hear about abbas also having to lay aside for their children's sake. I am also finding that as they have gotten older not too much has changed as far as this goes. To be sure my 14yo does not come barreling up to me to demand my attention during the Amidah, and my 18yo does not tap me singing "Imma, Imma,Imma" during my tefilla but there are times when I think I am going to have such and such amount of time to daven or learn that they may need something, something that really cannot wait. Sometimes I get frustrated too, but then I remember that it is such a gift to have teenagers who still need you and want you around. Who still seek your opinion or need your input on something. I am very grateful for this and I know soon enough they will all be married with children of their own (B'ezrat Hashem), and I will be home with plenty of time for uninterrupted tefilla...unless G-d willing the grandchildren need me! LOL!

PS>Yetta bring your children to shul and try not to worry about it. I love seeing children there and even their noises. If it gets too much for the children take a break, go for a walk, or enlist some help from a young lady. I agree with your friend it is more important for you to be there.

 
At October 10, 2005 at 3:21:00 PM EDT, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I'm starting to feel it, but from the other side. For years I've sat with my sons through davening. Now two of the three are off in Yeshiva for RH and YC. I sit with the third. In 3 years, he'll be gone too. I wonder what I will do then.

 
At October 10, 2005 at 8:01:00 PM EDT, Blogger Jen said...

Such a sweet and honest sentiment. L'shanah tovah!

 
At October 11, 2005 at 12:35:00 AM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Same here, PT. With our one and only away in college, it's such a weird feeling not to have a boy to bless on Erev Shabbat and Yom Tov anymore.

 
At October 11, 2005 at 6:49:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Philly Farmgirl, Psycho Toddler, and Shira Salamone: As parents with older children than mine, your comments help remind me to live in the present....to remember that my main "avodah" is raising my children. Thank you all for your thoughts.

Jen: Thank you again for all your comments!

 

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