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Friday, September 22, 2006

Happy New Year

This weekend is the Jewish New Year. Which makes a bit more sense placementwise than the secular calendar's new year marker. I mean, dead of winter? As the start of a year? How do you think about rebirth when there is snow on the ground? Rosh Hashanah isn't that much better--fall doesn't have renewal characteristics like spring, but at least you have harvesting, gathering, contemplating. As I said, just a bit of sense.

There are three traditions (perhaps old wives' tales) that infertile women do during this time. Two happen on the second day of Rosh Hashanah this year, which would be this Sunday, the 24th. The first ceremony is called Tashlich and it entails going to a moving body of water (river, stream, lake, ocean) and "casting away" all of the crap you've experienced this past year. The failed cycles. The injections. The fights with your spouse over infertility choices. The miscarriages. The exams and procedures and blood work and sonograms. All of it. Figuratively cast it away. Okay, so you're technically supposed to cast away your sins. But let's just pretend that my sins are much more miniscule in importance than all of the bad feelings tied to infertility. I used to write out a long list of all the things I wanted to close off and forget (forget the emotions and pain--not forget the lesson learned) from the past year. And then I would rip it up and throw the pieces in the water because the point is to not hold on to these things and take them with you into the next year.

That night (the second tradition), people eat a pomegranate. It's part of this larger concept called first fruits, but infertile women have adopted it as a way to ensure good fertility in the coming year. We not only ate the pomegranate ourselves, but shared it with my parents who had already gone through infertility. We just thought that the more people on our side, the better. So, we had at least four people pushing for good fertility for us each year. So, I would recommend getting together with friend to eat the pomegranate. Or your lady-when-waiting or sibling or parents. And out for stains. And thinking about the future.

The final tradition happens a few weeks later after the holiday of Succot. Succot is a harvest holiday and the oversimplified description of this holiday is that it's a time when Jews celebrate the fall harvest by building these temporary shelters (called a sukkah) and spending time as a community within them. Some people sleep in them for the 8 days of the holiday. Others just hold meals in them. In each sukkah is a set of braided leaves (called a lulav) and a small, lemon-like fruit (called an etrog). You shake the lulav and etrog in several directions and recite this prayer when you enter the sukkah. Damn, when you have to explain your own holiday, it sounds so much weirder than when you're just celebrating it.

When Succot is over (this year on October 15th), the etrog is given to a couple who is trying to conceive and the woman bites the stem (called the pitom) off the top. And it's supposed to bring her a pregnancy within the year. We were given the etrog two years running. I still have the little, shriveled etrogs and the wooden stems inside a cup in my living room. So how do you get the etrog? I don't know if you're not Jewish. I mean, you could buy one, but I've always assumed that it was supposed to have been used during the holiday to have it infused with extra spiritual powers. You could call any synagogue in America and explain your situation and ask them for their etrog when the holiday is over. It saves them the uncomfortable task of trying to figure out the infertile couple in their congregation and offer it to them.

And all these they help? Who knows. I think tashlich is a wonderful tradition for everyone. To just throw away all the bad feelings that are weighing you down. The rest of it? How could it hurt?


Lisa P. said...

I must be hormonal, because for some reason the thought of throwing away all the bad stuff from the past year made me burst into tears.

I wish I could feel like starting anew right now. It's a good thought though.

aah0424 said...

Thanks for the lesson. I think I will at least try the Tashlich and eat the pomegranate. My mother is Jewish and my father was raised Catholic. They raised us in the synagogue when we were children, but at some point we stopped going. I consider myself to be spiritual, but not religious. My mother is always happy when I take on traditions from the Jewish religion and I think my mom would be overjoyed if I asked her to take part in this with me!

Ella said...

Hapy New year to you as well. To new beginnings....Shana Tova.

Piccinigirl said...

First, Happy New Year!!!!

second I am going to try the Tashlich, a nice day down by the pond sounds good to me to cast away all the bad feelings of this past year. I hope that it works for a little Catholic girl like me.

May this year bring you beautiful things my friend.

serenity said...

Mel - I am not religious, but I LOVE the idea of the tashlich. Sunday it is. Thank you for a wonderful idea!

Womb in Waiting said...

& Shana tova to you too. Praying in shule was good today, it hit the spot....I prayed for our little embryo that is too small & prayed it would survive & we would make more babies & ......
Thank god we have our faith & meaning.....I prayed too im still pregnant next week during yom kippur...its a day at a time at the - thanx for reminding me tomorrow is tashlich. we head down to bondi beach with our wonderful rabbi after the service & do tashlich.

ms. c said...

Wonderful post, Mel. I'm off to get some pomegranates for tonight's dinner (and will come up with a crafty idea for why I am presenting them at the table-because we are not out. It will certainly bring up comments on my insistence of an orange on the seder plate...) And, when my dad, as he always does, implores me to join him for Tashlich, perhaps I will. Now I have a few weeks to figure out how to get my hands on an etrog...
Shana Tova to you and your whole family. I hope this year brings lots of sweetness to your life.

DI_Dad said...

L'Shonah Tovah

I loved your descriptions of the holidays and explaining it the way you did.


Ms. Once said...

This heathen very much enjoyed your post. But I'm wondering whether it's within religious bounds to throw out the evil triage nurse in the ER and two clueless (somewhat heartless) med students I had to deal with during my first loss.... Ohhhh, metaphorical you say. Nowhere near as fun ;)