By Shaindle Schmuckler | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the realm of High Holiday colors, pink tickets were always worth the most. Beige tickets, not so much. Blue tickets were so last year.
There were lots of children who attended our shul in the Bronx. Collecting the High Holiday tickets was our way of making a statement to G-d. It was all about recycling the cardboard tickets — OK, maybe not so much the recycling as the thrill of the collecting activity.
The grown-ups would toss the tickets — who knew from keeping our environment and earth clean? — after showing them to the guard at the front door of the shul. We did not need a police officer with a gun; this guard was always an old guy, a yom tov (holiday) goy whose sole responsibility was checking the color of the High Holiday tickets. These were proof positive the person attending the service made the proper contribution to the shul.
Some tickets were tossed onto the floor of the coat room, some in the bathroom wastebasket, some on the steps leading to the women’s section, and those in attendance who were environmentally ahead of the crowd would place them on the seat next to them.
We would politely whisper “excuse me” as we wormed our way in and out of those very same seats; first upstairs in the women’s section, then downstairs in the men’s section, deftly pocketing those precious yom tov tickets.
Again in service to G-d, keeping trash off the floor. An adult’s trash is a child’s precious treasure.
White Mary Janes with lacey white socks were appropriate when we were one of the little kids. Black patent leather Mary Janes, again with the lacey white socks, were worn when we entered elementary school and could finally snicker at the little kids in their “baby” white Mary Jane shoes.
Oh, and those fabulous, richly colored velvet or sateen dresses with enough fabric to twirl until we got so dizzy we looked drunk with a case of the happies, or when one of our moms would walk out into the lobby of the shul where we were all performing for one another and gave us the look.
That look, by the way, could kill the most ferocious terrorists.
Mr. President, perhaps the mommy look should be our weapon of choice. Believe me, it works.
The High Holidays, well, actually, all the holidays, were huge. Huge meals with our huge extended family, all of whom lived in our apartment building. We actually had a family member occupying apartments on almost every floor of our six-story apartment building. We were our own neighborhood. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and, of course, we must include the pretend cousins, aunts and uncles, and their grandparents.
Now that I mention it, we never occupied apartments on the lobby floor. Hmmm, wonder what that was all about? Perhaps it was because we all played in the lobby whenever it rained. It was a perfect setup for our imaginary king and queen and our royal court games.
We walked to shul. It was only a few blocks from our apartment building on Prospect Avenue down to Tremont Avenue, where our shul was located.
Dad, carrying his blue-velvet tallit bag with the gold trim, wearing his kippah under his hat, along with Papa (our grandfather) and the male cousins and uncles, always left before us. For years I thought this must be a religious practice of some sort, dads leading the way, the rest of us following soon afterward.
Mom always wore her little round beige lace head covering with its sweet little grosgrain bow on top. If it was chilly, actually even if it wasn’t chilly, Mom wore her black Persian lamb coat or her mink stole. We are talking about a real fashionista.
Although I went to Yiddishe shul (Jewish after-school school), we did not study prayer. Whatever we knew was what we heard and repeated phonetically from our elders. Therefore, I had no idea on earth what was going on.
However, watching the men on the bimah in the middle of the shul facing the ark, davening with such grace and such fervor, always gave me the chills and made me feel proud to be part of this special community. It was the sound of prayer, the melodies, the combined voices of men and women in their cries to a G-d they could not see but completely believed in. It made me want to believe.
Today, I am still in awe of how deeply some feel when they are in their prayer mode. I am still completely mesmerized when I hear Kol Nidre. I still have huge meals for the family, all of whom live very near to me, so we almost are our own neighborhood, only covering a larger geographic area.
My husband leaves before we do, carrying his black-and-gold tallit bag, wearing his kippah (but no hat) so he can get to shul early and ensure a good seat.
We still dress in special outfits for shul. I wear my beloved black Mary Janes for grown-ups, with 4-inch heels. No socks!
Some things, however, are different. Today we drive to shul at the Chabad center. There aren’t any colored tickets indicating the year and the amount of your donation.
Our family does not all attend the same shul. Our four girls, their husbands and the 10 children among them all attend different synagogues and temples. One daughter and her children join me at Chabad.
As a grown-up (no comments from the peanut gallery, please!) I have studied enough and heard enough so that I now have a somewhat clearer insight into the prayers. When I am asking for forgiveness, when I am touching my heart, I understand. I understand the world will always need our help, our forgiveness.
The colors of the High Holidays, the children in their special, richly colored outfits, a few with Mary Janes, all playing outside or experiencing the holidays together at the children’s service, will one day look back and, I hope, be able to say, “We understand.”
Thank you (ah shainem dank) to all my elders who paved the way to my adulthood. Most of all, I thank G-d for my four girls, all women of valor, for their constant support and unconditional love as I travel along life’s highway, experiencing all its twists, turns and recalculations.