by Lori Levy
If everyone else is doing it, that's a good reason not to do it–
Dr. Richard (Reuven) Sobel, my father, RIP
In my granddaughter’s jujitsu class
there’s a boy named Rebel–
a name to live up to, I think.
I am not a rebel
but the rebel in me roars
when it comes to holidays, traditions, rituals.
I want to do them my way
which means no fasting on Yom Kippur.
Fasting gives me a headache. I need coffee
when I wake up, food to start the day.
Only then, belly full, can I contemplate my sins.
If it's up to me, we don't have to bother with the symbols
required for a Passover plate: shank bone, bitter herbs, haroset.
Can't we skip the long prayers and just eat matzo?
One year we are in Spain on Rosh Hashanah,
all of us there for my nephew’s wedding.
We celebrate the holiday with apples and honey
on a blanket at the beach. Perfect, I think.
My rebel smiles and disappears.
Sometimes, filled with guilt, I accuse my rebel:
you’re just lazy–too lazy to cook and host
a big holiday meal, though you don't seem to mind
when others do the cooking. What kind of Jew are you?
No, not lazy! I shout. (Am I my rebel?)
I do want my loved ones at the table with me,
not for prayers, not for the Bible I never read,
just a meal, togetherness.
I wasn't raised on holidays–except Hanukkah,
for a few gifts, so we wouldn't feel left out
when all the other kids in our small Vermont town
were getting toys and clothes under their Christmas trees.
No Purim for us, or Succot. No synagogue in our town
or Jews in my class. No Bar Mitzvah for my brother–
but when he turned 13, my atheist father and
non-religious mother took us on a trip to Israel.
Several years later, there we were, living in Israel.
I could talk about history, the Holocaust–or just say
I fell in love with the country. Or maybe
with Israeli men. I married one.
We celebrated the holidays with his family,
but now, years later, I'm back where I began,
not wanting the rituals that were never, back then,
a part of my life. I’m happy to be a Jew, but
this is my Judaism: my Israeli husband,
Israel, my kids born there. It’s not about Moses or
the Torah. Maybe it's nothing more than
hummus and pita, Israeli pickles and olives.
We eat them in Los Angeles now.
Previously published by The Jewish Writing Project in October 2023.