Friends, Love, God & the High Holidays

I love my friend Rachel.  We met at Temple and over the past three years have become very close.  She is Canadian too, so what’s not to love?  Rachel knows every prayer and every song, from every Jewish holiday.  I like to think I know my stuff, but this chick rocks when it comes to being Jewish.

She gives me tremendous comfort.  I can be having a good day, and talking to her makes it better, and if I’m having a bad day, she puts it all into perspective.  She is smart, funny, supportive, kind, and refuses to take any crap from me.  She forces me to be the best that I can be, no excuses.

I went into the high holidays a little off my game.  It’s a time of reflection and atonement, and I look forward to this time of year.  For 2011 however, I found myself heading into this special time with sadness.  I did not embrace the holidays as I normally do, and it was frustrating, as I’m not sure why.

For weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah, I found myself questioning my faith. Was I Jewish enough?  Was I being my true Jewish self?  Was I providing my son with enough Judaism in our home for him to define himself as a practicing Jew?  All my questions were causing me to feel sadness.

As I struggled to understand my life, I was helping my friend Luke prepare to ask his girlfriend to marry him.  Luke is one of the sweetest men I have ever known.  He is kind and never says anything bad about anyone, and he loves his girl, my dear friend, Rachel.  Rachel and Luke are a wonderful couple, and their getting married makes sense.  After weeks of shopping, Luke chose the ring.  It is spectacular, and after looking at so many, when he saw the one, he just knew. He looked at it and immediately wanted it to be Rachel’s ring.

Luke was nervous, anxious and completely charming as he plotted his proposal.  I was questioning faith, but helping Luke get ready for this huge step, I found my thoughts about love changing.  I have been searching for love and the passage of time has left me a little jaded.  I discovered through Luke that love is grand whether it’s yours or someone else’s.  Luke called me the morning of the proposal to ask if he should take the ring out of the box and present it, or leave it in and open it old school.  That simple question made my heart skip a beat.

Love is wonderful, and to see it in the life of my friends is great.  I am not jealous, I just appreciate it.  When you are searching for love, seeing it in others, especially people that you love, makes you believe that it is possible. My love will come because love exists.  It’s just that simple.  Luke proposed on Friday afternoon, and Rachel said yes.  When I saw her at Kol Nidre services and she ran over and hugged me, I held on tight.  It was as if she was transferring part of her happiness to me, so I could share in her joy, and have it until I found the same joy for myself.

I sat at services with Luke, Rachel and my son.  I love Kol Nidre, and I was happy to be there, but I was not feeling any huge spiritual moment.  It was just nice, and felt more obligatory, than meaningful.  Services ended, my fast began, and I headed home with my son.  I woke up Saturday not wanting to go to temple, but of course I went. I took a seat with Luke and Rachel, and waited to feel something. As I sat next to Rachel, listening to her sing every word, and recite every prayer, I began to cry.  It was as if the floodgates opened and I could not stop.

The Rabbi was talking and it was as if only he and I were in the room.  He spoke to me directly, and I heard him.  I was sobbing at this point.  I cried and released all of my pain and sadness.  It felt as though my body were cleansing itself of all my doubt.  I stood there and let it all go.  As the congregation stood to sing and pray, my tears fell and I felt a connection to God.  It was as if he came and held my hand.  He was always there of course, I was just not in a place to hear him.  I was so worried about not hearing God, that I forgot to talk to him so he could hear me.

As I watched the Rabbi, I felt blessings wash over me.  He put me in a place to speak to God, and I am grateful.  I ended the holiday with a feeling of love for my faith.  In being a witness to the love of Rachel and Luke, I was able to open my own heart, and reconnect to God.  I broke fast with Luke and Rachel and it was lovely.  I was happy to share in their joy, but in the end more than being happy for them, I was grateful. It turns out I needed a love story in my life.  I thought it was mine I was waiting for, but it was theirs that restored my faith.

Faith is about more than religion.  Faith means hope and trust, belief and forgiveness.  I went into the holidays complacent, and I left fulfilled.  I don’t know what it was about that moment that allowed me to get clarity, but not knowing is part of what makes it magical.  I needed God and he came, as he always has, and he let me know that I am never alone, and he watches over me and my son.  I am looking for love, peace, joy and hope.  The blessing is that they are all in me, so I don’t need to look very hard, I just need to keep the faith.