The Jewish holidays have arrived and my family has been celebrating much like we always do: by skipping temple, gathering around the dining room table at an odd hour somewhere between lunch and dinner and diving into a big bowl of Grandma’s homemade matzo ball soup…
From my other Jewish friends, I hear of similar traditions and while we all appreciate the general sense of togetherness the holidays bring, many of us seem to have forgotten the meaning behind them. Each year I closely observe my grandparents as they attempt to keep our traditions alive, whether it’s by going to a service at temple, dipping an apple into honey on Rosh Hashanah or by fasting on Yom Kippur. The problem is that despite their efforts, the Jewish holidays seem to become increasingly less religious with every passing year.
I’m not sure what exactly changed and when, but for many young Jewish people there seems to be a disconnect between the actual holidays and the experiences of our ancestors. On days we are told to stay in and rest, many of us go about town running errands and on days we are told to read religious text, many of us tend to skip through and dive hastily into the main course.
In vivid memories, I recall my grandmother standing at the head of the table urging us to dip an apple slice into honey on Rosh Hashanah, which is meant to represent a sweet new year. “I’ll pass on the apples,” I would hear from one corner of the table. “I’ll take an apple, but I’m definitely not dipping it in honey,” I would hear from another. This year the apples were presented on the table as usual, but were not spoken of and were hardly touched.
With Yom Kippur coming up, the holiest day of the year, I have not yet decided whether or not I’m going to fast. I know how much it would mean to my grandparents to uphold the traditions they’ve followed for their entire lives, but for Jewish millennials like me, I’m not going to lie: it’s tempting to want to skip the fast and jump immediately to the bagels and lox.