Hineni -- Here I Am

Shalom! School has begun. Fall is here. I am Jewish.

Of course I'm Jewish year round, but in September we celebrate the high holidays -- Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On Rosh Hashanah, we reflect on the past year and on Yom Kippur our fate is sealed. Simply put, it is finals week and report cards are coming.

Today, I'm supposed to be at temple by 10 a.m. because I've been given an honor to open the ark encasing the Torah. It's nice to be acknowledged, but I'm just no good at the religion stuff. I mean, I send my boys to Hebrew School, attend temple on the holidays and of course, wear my "I heart Jews" tee shirt (kidding, people); but I never was a Bat Mitzvah, can't read Hebrew and feel generally uncomfortable with all things religious.

I once said "Jesus Christ" as I tripped into temple and practically fell into the Rabbi. Apparently, I am capable of offending multiple religions simultaneously. I also have said "Amen" to the rabbi after he sneezed, and once in my flirty, uncomfortable-with-authority awkwardness, suggested to him that the reason it was hot in the temple was because of me. Oh yes, I did.

Why they would put me up there on display is beyond me, and I'm conflicted about why I even accepted. I don't really want to go, but all I can do now is accept my honor, hopefully not fall off the stage and then slip quietly into background, which is where I want to be in the first place.

After trying on at least three different ensembles for an appropriate outfit, I ultimately settle on a 15 year-old black dress that I have worn for everything from bridal showers to funerals. Today, it's my back to temple Fall dress. Thank goodness for Express in the 90s.

I glance at the clock. 9:42 a.m. My husband and the boys will just have to meet me. It's a seven minute walk, but in heels it's more like 15 minutes. I start with a brisk pace, but slow down when I trip over the sidewalk and slightly twist my ankle.

At 9:58 a.m, I limp into the temple sanctuary and check in. "I'm here!" I announce and the administrator hands me a card that says my time is 11:15 a.m. What?? My paper said 10 a.m. I show it to the administrator who shrugs. What kind of racket is this?

I pick the prayer book up from my chair and sit down in a semi-breathless huff. I remember that the temple purchased new books a month or so ago, and that in a moment of sentimentality I had even donated $54 for one of the books to be dedicated to my grandmother who had recently passed.

Absently, I flip it open and there it is; my grandmother's inscription. Out of three hundred random books, I find my grandmother. Or more accurately, my grandmother finds me. I smile and look around like she's right behind me, which I now feel as though she is.

The temple president is speaking and I wait for her to finish before ascending the Bimah (platform). Her running theme is "Hineni" which translates to "Here I am." She's trying to inspire people get involved, while thanking the people who do. Hineni. I like it.

She finishes and up I go with a handful of other honorees. I open the ark, the Torah is brought forth, and we are instructed to follow the procession around the congregation. What? Me? No. I didn't sign up for that. Open. Close. Done. But I'm ushered forward and immediately overwhelmed with people shaking my hand and offering Shana Tova.

Like writing LOL, I have never been comfortable saying Shana Tova. It always felt like I was pretending to be something I'm not. Happy New Year I can say, but here I am clasping hands with dozens of people and Shana Tova'ing like a game show host.

We finally end the procession back on the Bimah. The Torah is put away and the arc closed. I look out from the stage and see my boys, front and center watching me. My little one is dancing a little dance, my middle guy is bright eyed and my oldest is smiling wide. I smile back and realize his fly is open. Oops, I think. Hineni.

I return to my seat, flushed and happy to be done. My husband and boys are there and together we finish out the service. I look around at the congregation and see so many friends and familiar faces. My prayer book with my grandmother's inscription rests on my lap. I feel warm and connected. Hineni, I think, here I am.

(Please ignore the food on my notice. Concentrate only on the fact that it said 10am)

A revised version of this essay originally appeared on Icescreammma.com. Happy new year everyone.