Random Blog A Musing Farf

Thursday, September 21, 2006


It’s really amazing how much compromise is involved when you marry someone of a different faith. Technically (as in by birth) Husband is Jewish (as am I) but by practice he is an atheist and pretty much despised anything that in any way smacks of religion. On the other hand, I say prayers every night, try to maintain some of the kosher dietary laws (no pork, but lobster is okay) and really celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in a meaningful way.

Every year, right around the holidays, Husband and I have the same argument. He refuses to attend synagogue and I hate to go alone, so we head up to my parent’s house so I have people with whom I can worship and he joins us for the big family dinners. The problem centers around having dinner with his family.

Let me be clear right off. I am incredibly lucky in the in-law lottery. Husband’s entire family is just wonderful and I could not love them more if I had been born into their family. Generally, I can’t imagine passing up dinner with them. (Seriously, if you have not heard Mother in Law (MiL) imitate her students at school, you are really missing out!) But they do not celebrate the holidays in a religious sense – no one goes to Synagogue.

I am a pretty firm believer that everyone celebrates a holiday in their own way and, in most cases, I would tell you that the family aspect is the most important of any holiday. So, without hesitation, I give up Seder one night during Passover to have Passover dinner with Husband’s family and pretty much don’t think twice about it all year. But, for some reason, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are different. You see, I actually use Rosh Hashanah to attend Synagogue and reflect about the previous year. For ten days, I really try to be a better person and use the Yom Kippur fast as a symbol of my commitment to be nicer, more caring, less gossipy, more charitable, etc. (It’s also a fabulous way to kick off a diet). I decline invitations to cool events and try not to even talk on the phone during the Jewish Holidays (although I do watch TV, I am not a martyr, after all so let’s be reasonable). Husband tolerates my self-denial and keeps his grumbling to a minimum. But, he refuses to attend Synagogue, saying it makes him feel hypocritical, and stays home on those days.

Generally, I could care less about whether or not he attends a religious service. I have people to go with me so I am not alone and he has agreed that, should be ever have kids, they will be forced to attend with me until college, when they can make their own decisions. The problem arises when his family (not unreasonably) wants to have a holiday meal on the actual holiday. Since Jewish holidays start the night before the fist day of the holiday, this would mean that a holiday, such as Rosh Hashanah, which runs Saturday and Sunday this year, would actually begin Friday at sundown and end Sunday at sundown. Thus, holiday dinners would be Friday night and Saturday night. Still with me? So, for these purposes, the schedule of events would be holiday dinner (Friday night), Synagogue (Saturday daytime), holiday dinner (Saturday night), Synagogue (Sunday daytime), holiday over Sunday evening. Confused? Good. So is pretty much half of the American-Jewish population.

Husband’s family had dinner at Husband’s aunt’s home in NYC (very sadly, Husband’s uncle, whom I adored, died this summer after a battle with cancer). This means, since I do not travel on the holidays, that Husband’s family dinner must either be the first night (in this case Friday night) and then we head to my parent’s house afterwards or after the holiday on Sunday night. Any other option means I would not be able to attend services.

So far, I have been lucky. Husband’s family had held dinner on either the first night or the night immediately following the holiday and there has been no conflict. And I know (and appreciate) that this was mainly for my benefit and then I feel really guilty because his family’s traditions are totally valid and should not be moved to accommodate me. So I am torn between feeling bad about it and being really adamant that if Husband wants to do dinner during the holiday, he should offer to spend three hours in Synagogue with me. Sigh. A never ending cycle and actually the very first thing about which we ever had a fight.

Of course, the upside is, after digging in my heels about the holiday, I have something to repent.

1 comment:

New Mom said...

I am very religious in my heart. I've been saying the Shma morning and night since my grandma taught it to me when I was only 3 years old. In between I pray at least once more every day. Granted, I was given the same religious upbringing as I afforded Husband - yours, not mine. We all made our choices as adults to outwardly practice or not. Inwardly, I do. I can't condone Husband's beliefs, but can only hope that once you have children of your own, he will observe and embrace the religion as my husband and as my father did. If we lived closer to you I'd be going to services with you. I don't have anyone to go with me and won't go alone. I understand, totally. FYI, Husband's great, great grandfather was a rabbi!