October 2, 2006

New Year

There are traditional Jewish blessings for the most mundane of things: washing hands, eating, putting on new clothes. There are also blessings for unusual events, such as seeing a rainbow, an ocean or a very tall person (No kidding!)

Here's a bit of Jewish trivia. There is a blessing for seeing a great multitude of Jews together. No wonder I did not learn that one: I grew up in a small Ohio city, with a modest Jewish population. Even if they were all in the same place at the same time, it could hardly be called a multitude. Since I have moved to Chicago, I think of that blessing at this time every year.

A long time ago, in Ohio, most people had never seen a bagel, much less gefilte fish or halvah. Here in Chicago, I was surprised to find that grocery stores advertise traditional food for the season. Around here, public schools are closed. It's not unusual to see a backyard Sukkah or kosher food at the store.

Our synagogue holds its holiday services in a huge historic suburban church. Since the congregants must walk or park on the street, there truly is a multitude of Jews all heading towards this enormous church at the same time. Extraordinary. Last night, I sat in the balcony looking down at the crowd of heads below. I don't know most of them personally. Although I often feel isolated and alone in my tiny family of three, it is heartening to remember that I am part of this multitude, not only in my own local community, but in the whole world.

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