| Family Tempo |

The Year He Answers

Another year. Another Rosh Hashanah. And nothing has changed

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5775

I stand in front of the mirror in my bedroom. It’s the only room in the house with one bed and such thick walls. You could sit on your bed and chat on the phone with your seminary teacher for hours without anyone hearing, and you could come in late at night and climb under the covers without anyone waking to ask how the date went.

Mirel calls as I rummage through my cosmetics bag. I jam the phone between my ear and shoulder while sorting the lipsticks and looking for the perfect shade. “This time last year,” she reminds me.

I sigh. “I miss so much about seminary. It’s no way near as fun to be an adult — this is the first time I needed to mentally prepare for a Yom Tov all on my own.”

“I just learned something the other day,” Mirel says. “Want a quick summary?”

I lean against the closet door and listen until my mother calls from downstairs. “Fay, it’s time for licht.”

Moments later I stand in front of the silver candlesticks as she welcomes the new year. And when my mother covers her eyes, I daven, too.

Hashem, please help me hold on to the inspiration and ideals I built last year. Help me find a job I enjoy, that makes me feel fulfilled. And then, like a whisper, the tefillah I was too scared to admit I already held: Hashem, please help me find the most wonderful guy so we can build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5776

My desk is piled high with papers — my car lease, forms I need to submit for my new job, a copy of my shidduch résumé. I’d only come home from the hospital a few minutes before; Bubby had been admitted again, and I wanted to wish her a gut gebentsht yahr, even if the hospital was an hour’s drive away.

I call Mirel for help. “My room is a wreck,” I tell her. “And it won’t get clean unless I clean it.”

“No one warned us that being an adult is so hard.” She laughs. “How’s your grandmother?”

“She needs a refuah sheleimah,” I say. Mirel asks me for Bubby’s Hebrew name, and then we hang up. I organize the papers until I hear my mother call, “Fay, it’s time for licht.”

When we stand in front of the candles, I take a moment to daven: Hashem, please help Bubby get strong. Don’t make it too hard for Mommy to watch her mother age.

And then, quietly, I whisper the tefillah that’s shifting to the forefront of my dreams. Hashem, please help me find my shidduch.

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5777

“How’s the kallah?” I ask Mirel.

“Ugh, so official,” she says, but I hear her smile. “His mother just dropped off my new machzor. He was so smart and didn’t engrave it yet so I can do it with my new last name once we’re married.”

“This time next year,” I say. “You’re going to be one of the women at shul in a sheitel.”

Im yirtzeh Hashem by you, too,” she says, laughing. “I’m allowed to say that because I’m your friend, right?”

I give her my formal permission just as I hear my mother call, “Fay, it’s time for licht.” I watch her light the candles and wipe away a tear.

Hashem, please give Bubby’s neshamah an aliyah and make sure she gets a spot in Shamayim right near Zeidy. And then, in a soft voice, I add, Hashem, please help me get married this year.

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5778

My phone beeps, a text from Mirel three days after I last messaged her.

“Baby is crazy so can’t call to chat, but I wanna wish you all the best. Kesivah vachasimah tovah.”

I text a quick reply and continue to sort through my closet. My sister Sarale would love the long blue dress, I realize. It would be perfect for hot California summers. I add it to the cardboard box near my door.

I call Sarale as I divide the rest of my wardrobe. “I’m sending you a new wardrobe,” I said.

“Oh, yes! I’m so excited — it’s not the same as walking down the block to raid your closet, but it will have to do. When are you coming to visit?”

“Who knows,” I say. “Work is crazy this time of year, and I’m too new to ask for time off yet. I’d love to come, but it may not be for a few more months.”

“Well, then, you’ll just have to give us a reason to come home earlier.” A pause. “This is going to be the year,” Sarale says. “I feel it.”

“Amen,” I answer, just as my mother calls from downstairs. It’s time for candles, time for my tears.

Hashem, please help me use my talents to make a difference and help me feel successful at my job. And then, I think about Sarale and add, Please let her brachah come true.

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5779

I pull myself out of bed and straighten the blankets. The clutch is still sitting on my desk, remnants of yet another date gone nowhere. I should put it away before Yom Tov, but I don’t have the energy to go near it.

“You feeling sick? Tired?” my mother asks when I finally stumble into the kitchen. She looks at my worn face. “Both?”

I nod and bite back the tears, again. We put on music as we cook, and the lyrics of “Zachreinu L’chaim” waft through the kitchen. I’m grateful to be alive, for this life I live, but I wonder if it’s selfish to want a different one, one with a husband and home of my own.

As I chop carrots for the merren, clean chicken for the soup, and separate the seeds of the pomegranates, I begin my tefillos early. Hashem, please help me find him.

By the time hours pass and my mother calls me down for candlelighting, the words are spinning in my head like a broken record. Hashem, please make it happen. Soon.

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5780

I listen to the echo of an overseas dial tone from my perch on my bed.

“Hello?” my sister answers.

“Hi! How’s Israel?” I ask. She begins to speak and doesn’t stop for many long breaths — how amazing it is to see the Kosel for the first time, how gross it is that there’s mold in her dorm room. Also, she’s so grateful for the package I sent and it made her cry even though, don’t worry, she’s not homesick but she does get sad when she thinks about home. And, oh, it’s her turn for the shower so she has to run, but overall things are amazing and she’s so, so glad I called.

I hang up and smile, so grateful she’s settling in. My eyes are smarting though, and there’s a fear echoing in my mind, louder than ever before. When the year ends, she’s coming home. And I may still be here, waiting.

She’ll want to start dating and I’ll be there, blocking her path, her older sister who’s not married yet.

Hours later, I stand in front of the silver candlesticks as we welcome the new year. And from behind my covered eyes, I cry. Hashem, I don’t know if I’m strong enough to let her go first.

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5781

I stand in front of the mirror and consider which eyeshadow to wear.

The phone is on speaker, and Mirel’s voice sounds distant. “Are you going to shul?” she asks.

“What do you mean? What else would I do?”

“Not sure. I just figured you wouldn’t want to go back anymore — everyone else is married.”

“Yeah, I had no idea until you mentioned it.” I want to say more, but it’s Erev Rosh Hashanah so I bite my tongue.

“Anyway, the baby’s crying but I wanted to call for old times’ sake and wish you a kesivah vachasimah tovah.”

“You, too,” I say and then rush to end the call.

Maybe Mirel was right —perhaps I shouldn’t go to shul? Everyone would glance at me over the top of their machzorim, scrutinize the way I did or didn’t concentrate, and decide they knew exactly what I was davening for. But what was my other option? Daven alone on the couch?

I don’t think I can stomach another Rosh Hashanah alone.

My eyeshadow has all been rubbed off by the time my mother calls me down for lichtbentschen.  Moments later, I stand in front of the silver candlesticks and welcome the new year. And despite the questions shaking my faith and the doubt spilling into my thoughts, I know there is only one thing to do. So I close my eyes, and I daven.

Hashem, please help me find the most wonderful guy so we can build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.

And that year, He answers.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 811)

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