Monday, December 12, 2011

Rosh, the Ring and Feeling Connected

This blog post from Molly Tobin (Wheaton College Class of 2013) was originally published in the Wheaton Wire on October 5, 2011.

This past week Jews around the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah, or popularly referred to by my eldest brother as “the Rosh.” Rosh Hashanah is the New Year on the Hebrew calendar and also marks the beginning of what is known as the High Holidays or High Holy Days; the period of time between the start of Rosh Hashanah and the end of Yom Kippur.

I made a decision a few years ago to not attend High Holiday services. It was not a protest against my religion or a rebellion against my parents. I articulated that I didn’t like that so many people attended services on these two days, and yet I had never seen most of them in synagogue on the other 363 days of the year. But I also felt services to be impersonal and insignificant for me. I felt connection in temple at other times of the year, whether during services or social gatherings, and I didn’t see a need to loose that connection simply because it was an important holiday. This year I have spent a lot of time thinking about connection and discovered that my connection to Judaism was made stronger during the times I least expected.

I have been immensely fortunate to travel to Israel three times in the last year. Each time I deplaned at Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv, the first thing I did was put my sunglasses on. No matter what the weather was outside, inside the sunlight was always blinding. It was a tremendously dramatic scene to walk through the airport towards immigration and glance outside the window noticing it was cloudy, but then looking straight ahead and seeing sunlight consume the corridors.

Walking through the streets in Jerusalem, goose bumps constantly travel up and down my arms. The Old City is surreal and the atmosphere unique. My entire mindset changes and I feel comfortable, as if I am on a cloud. It is not that I compare being in Israel to a religious experience like sitting in synagogue (though it could be) it’s that I don’t need to be in a place of worship to feel touched and connected.

Part of the process of reconnecting with Judaism and reclaiming my faith has been to understand the ways in which I feel connected. I don’t always feel connected by sitting in synagogue – though I have a tremendous respect for those that do. However I felt connected this summer by spending multiple days with a Holocaust survivor; I have felt connected enjoying a casual cup of coffee with the Rabbi of my synagogue; I have felt connected by spending time with over 150 young Jewish adults in Israel over the course of my travels.

Yet, I have discovered it is an object that makes me feel the most connected: the ring I wear on my finger everyday. Inside it is inscribed to the memory of my Grandfather and the exterior reads “ani malkah bet malkim.” Literally meaning “I am the queen of the queens.” However figuratively it connects me as the descendant of my Grandfather and makes me a part of his legacy. The ring’s simple presence on my finger connects me to his love of Judaism, his pride in Israel, and his dreams and hopes for his family. This ring makes me feel connected to a man I never knew and helps me to feel Jewish in a way that I couldn’t attain from attending synagogue.

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