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Personal Update – Jewish Holidays, Photo Albums, and Other Stuff

Most of you have probably noticed that I haven't blogged much recently. That's because, as often happens, life has been busy. It's been a mix of the Jewish holidays, family stuff, other personal stuff, and work. For those of you who are interested, here's an update. (Others may wish to skip on to the last chapter which is a good bit and has Marvin in it.)

Jewish Holidays

Last week were the Days of Awe on the Jewish calendar, the reflective period of time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, culminating, of course, with Yom Kippur and the fast. Yom Kippur fell on Saturday this year, and whenever that happens, I can't help but feel cheated out of a shabbat. For me, the Jewish sabbath is always a joyous day, one I look forward to throughout the week for many reasons besides it being a day off from work. But when Yom Kippur supersedes the sabbath, the tone of the day changes to what you would expect for a Day of Atonement.

And in general, I have difficulty with the way we force these days to take on the significance that they do. If you're Jewish or watch The Colbert Report, you know that during this time there's a whole process in which we're supposed to ask forgiveness of the people around us and grant forgiveness to those who ask. I know it's a vital part of my religion, and yet I can't help but feel that there's a certain artificial aspect to it. Human beings can't turn forgiveness on and off like a light switch, and during these Ten Days of Repentance many of us are too busy and emotionally fragile to deal with the actual wronging that we may have done to each other.

(On the other hand, I absolutely do agree with the idea that God cannot forgive you for sins committed against your fellow human being; only the injured party can forgive you.)

I also hate fasting. Like many of us, I find that it throws my body out of whack and it takes a day or so for me to recover. The one advantage to Yom Kippur falling on Saturday is that we had Sunday off from work. (Next year, Yom Kippur falls on a Thursday, which is going to feel odd.)

But now that it's over, I'm delighted that we have the fall holiday of Sukkot to enjoy this week and next. It does tend to front-load the fall with holidays, but I've always agreed with the rabbi who was dumfounded by the number of people that observe Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and then ignore Sukkot entirely: "It's like eating your vegetables and then skipping dessert."

Photo Albums

On to some personal stuff. Although much of the issues regarding Mom's estate have been settled, there's still quite a lot to do. Mom had the whole collection of the family photo albums, and it's fallen to me to scan in every single photo so my brothers and I can each have a full set. Afterwards, I plan to hold onto the originals, even though the suggestion was made that once we had digital copies, the originals could be disposed of. That feels anathema to me. Scanning in photos takes a lot of time, so this is going to eat up many hours of my life, but Josh has expressed his gratitude to me for doing this, so I know it's a worthwhile thing to do.

Anyway, even though we have albums from our childhood, I'm actually starting with an album from when Mom was about 18 years old. Here's two photos I scanned in last night. The first is of my Mom:

Eleanor Mae Cohen (Burstein), circa 1954 Eleanor Mae Cohen (Burstein), circa 1954

And the second are my Mom's parents:

Louis Cohen and Clara Baker Cohen, circa 1954 Louis Cohen and Clara Baker Cohen, circa 1954

I find myself wishing I could talk to them and find out what they think of this whole scanning in of their photos. I also wish they were around to identify some of the people I don't recognize.

Other Stuff

Hm. Much of the other stuff going on is too boring to discuss. :-) If anyone has any particular questions they'd like to ask, I'll do my best to answer them.

In the meantime, here's a rare sentiment from Marvin, after he reads God's final Message to His Creation in Douglas Adams's So Long And Thanks for All the Fish: "I think...I feel good about it."


What a lovely picture of your mom. It's always amazing to see who people were as children and how that carried over into who they were as adults.

For Yom Kippur, over the course of a day or two, I go up to all the people I'm closest to (in person, if possible, phone, if not) and say, "If there's any way in which I've hurt you this past year, or anything you need to say to me, let's talk about it," and use it as a way to open up discussion, rather than a quick pro forma thing. I find for me it's generally more restorative than draining, touching base with the people I care about like that.
what beautiful pictures of mom and her family. Cherish them.

December 2016

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