I often write about my father, my mother, my grandparents, and now, of course, my new baby grandchild. This Rosh Hashanah, as we count our blessings for the new year, I want to write with great gratitude about my two sisters.
Yes, that's us, dressed up as the little Indian girls we were one Purim soon after we emigrated to the United States. I won't keep you guessing: Flora is on the left; Aliza is in the middle, and I'm on the right. We've grown up a lot since then!
For the past several years, we've worked together as a team to care for our parents, each one of us taking on different responsibilities. Our text messaging group of three is a lifeline, as we share everything from financial logistics to finding an apartment for our mother; from the lingering sadness over our father's death to the comforting joy of spotting a Monarch butterfly that flits about the Milkweed imbued with his spirit.
I know that as we enjoy the Rosh Hashanah seder this year--the distinctive Sephardic/Mizrahi home ritual for the new year—we will think of how my father took an extra helping of dates and apple maraba (preserves) to sweeten the taste of the spinach that he didn't especially like.
We will think of him, and we will think of each other as we chant the seven mystical verses that precede the seder. We will find special meaning in the verse from Psalms 36:9 (below) that we chose to be embroidered on the back of the Torah mantle and dedicated in his memory at B'nai Shalom in West Orange, NJ this past July. Our family worked together as a team to create a meaningful Torah service, each of us participating through the beauty of our own voices.
It's especially resonant that in the Baghdadi and Sephardic tradition, the Rosh Hashanah evening service begins with the piyyut, Ahot Ketanah, Little Sister, by Abraham Hazzan Girondi, a cantor and Spanish poet who lived in the mid-13th century. The poem compares Israel to a little sister who remains faithful to God, and prays that the year of suffering will give way to a year of blessing.
"For with you is the source of light...in your light do we see light." (Psalms 36:9)
To order my book, Apples and Pomegranates: A Family Seder for Rosh Hashanah (Lerner/Kar-Ben), click here.
With my best wishes for a year of light and blessings,