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Chasing Clarity  

 I’m trying. Very hard. But there’s a thick gray fog that makes me unsure of where I stand

I’ve heard the idea that the home is like the Beis Hamikdash and that a woman should see herself as the Kohein Gadol doing the Avodah.

It’s a beautiful concept, but for me, it takes a reaaal stretch of imagination. I’ve never seen the Beis Hamikdash, obviously, but even without having gone to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation’s 3D show, it’s hard to relate.

It’s more than the surface details. More than contrasting the majesty and beauty of the holiest place on earth with my living room floor cluttered with riding toys and strollers and laundry baskets on a good day. (I’ll spare you the details of a not-so-good day — most days of the week, when the cleaning lady doesn’t come.) It’s more than that.

It’s the purpose, the clarity.

The Kohanim had set jobs. They knew where they were meant to be and what they were meant to be doing at specific times. Presumably, they didn’t go to bed at night consumed with self-doubt, but rather with the satisfaction of knowing they’d served their Creator as He wished them to.

Over here, things are more ambiguous.

Am I a heroine for having brought another Jewish child into the world, this miracle in my arms a living testament to a Higher Power who grants life? Am I incredible for taking care of this helpless little being who relies on me for his every need, for providing him with the firm attachment that will one day help him form a secure relationship with his Father in Heaven?

Or am I neglecting the other children in the family when I burst out crying at the slightest provocation, tell them their fighting is giving me a headache, and that for any and every problem they should go to their father?

When my son comes home and tells me with a sheepish smile that he was sent out of class three times in two days, am I being an unconditionally loving mother when I casually respond, “Oh, what a shame,” and send him to take an ice-pop, or am I neglecting my obligation to teach him proper behavior and to explore if his math teacher might be hurt by his constant interruptions?

Am I a supermom who dragged herself out of bed to see my daughter off to her 7:22 a.m. bus? (Yup, folks, school in Israel starts at eight. Now the formula for why the bus needs to pick her up 38 minutes before school starts for a five-minute ride is beyond me, but I was never very good at math…) Am I wonderful for getting up to see her off, or am I not demonstrating chashivus haTorah if I go back to bed before my son leaves, and leave my husband, who has since returned from minyan, to see him off?

Am I going to be biography material one day because I let my husband go to yeshivah even when I’m barely holding it together? Or do I make it onto every kallah teacher’s list of What To Never Do when I call him the minute afternoon seder finishes to tell him he needs to hurry home because I’m not managing?

Yom Kippur is coming, and whether it’s mature acceptance or simply burnout, I don’t even dream of making it to shul. I’m worried about how I’m going to fast with a nursing baby, and I know that when my husband comes home for his break, I’ll probably head straight to bed. I hope the kids will let me say the tefillos from home and that I’ll merit forgiveness. I won’t be in shul to hear the Avodah or Mareh Kohein.

But when I think of Yom Kippur coming soon, I think of a time when all Jews, overtired, hormonal mothers among them, knew that the Kohein Gadol had come out of the Kodesh Hakodoshim, that a scarlet string had turned a pristine white, and that all was well. That they were forgiven, accepted, and loved.

I push the Doona with one foot, trying to rock the baby to sleep, and think of the hot dogs I’m going to serve for supper, because trying to get my picky eater to have chicken seems too overwhelming. I think of the preschooler who is desperate for attention from a mommy too empty to give her any, of the older one who just wants to share his day with a mother who is so, so tired.

I’m trying. Very hard. But there’s a thick gray fog that makes me unsure of where I stand.

One morning before Rosh Hashanah brings a blessed window of silence. I take a deep breath, remind myself that if Hashem wanted me to be an angel, He would have made me one, and try to reassure my skeptical self that my efforts count… a lot. And through the fog, I visualize a crimson string, the red bleeding into a pure white, and I tell myself that, even today, I’m forgiven, accepted, and loved.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 759)

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