Ah, Rosh Hashanah! A marvelous excuse to dress up a little and break out the Judaica:
(As it turns out, you can’t take a picture of your own chai necklace and have it read right to left…thank goodness for Photoshop!)
Hallie and I met up at the Bastille métro stop (for me that was line #5, orange; I think she took the bus) and walked to Place des Vosges, to the Synagogue des Vosges. It’s an orthodox synagogue–Hallie had been there before for Friday night services, but she wasn’t sure what the High Holidays would be like.
It was an experience, and really an overwhelmingly positive one. We sat in the main synagogue, which as I remarked to Hallie is a strange thing to me, given my years of having to go to the alternative services at American temples because there was no more room in the main service. The men and women were separated, but not by anything solid–everyone sat on the same floor, and there was no divider in the middle. We arrived around 11, and managed to get two seats towards the back. I had been worried about feeling out of place in an orthodox synagogue, but as it turned out, it was kind of a mixed bag. There were certainly men and women who looked observant, in hats and head-scarves and long sleeves, the whole enchilada–and then there were a few girls who came in wearing jeans, looking like they had just come from shopping.
When we got to temple, the Torah service was already underway, and it was the longest Torah service I have ever heard–not because it’s an especially long parsha (I’ve heard it enough times to know!), but because of how many aliyot there were. At this synagogue, people pay for aliyot on the high holidays, and they pay a LOT. And what’s more, when they are called to the bimah (“Monsieur Defarge est appelé à la Torah!”–oh, and only men can have aliyot), the rabbi announces to the congregation how much they paid for the privilege, right along with their names and the names of their parents and grandparents (“Mishaberach Moshe ben Chana v’Mordecai…qui a donné deux cent euro pour l’aliyah…”). I think I giggled a little every time–except for the men who had paid six or eight hundred euro for their aliyot. Then I just went, “Whaaaaa?!” The best was a boy who couldn’t have been much older than bar mitzvah age, who had paid twenty euro. Qu’il était mignon! Anyway, the reader couldn’t have done more than a few lines of Torah per aliyah, but he was terrific–fast, and with a very strong voice. I also really enjoyed the Rabbi’s singing, even when he was just announcing names–and pricetags.
After that we fiiiiiiinally got to the blowing of the shofar, which was really what we had been waiting for…and it sounded a little like a cow in some kind of mortal distress. At first I wondered if maybe it was a cultural thing, but then realized that about half an hour from the end of our interminable Torah reading we had heard the shofar being blown from the Sephardic temple on the other side of the building, and it had sounded grand. Oh well. There’s always next year. On the whole I liked being in this particular synagogue. It was fascinating to hear the way Hebrew sounds on a French tongue, and to try to catch up enough to repeat the blessing before the Torah reading with the rest of the congregation. I felt so cool and with it when I found that I could sing with the congregation–yet another thing, like voice lessons, that is pretty much the same the world over. Let’s hear it for ancient customs!
A few minutes after the Torah reading, they announced the Amidah and Hallie and I not-so-gracefully took our leave (we had to climb over several ladies who had lots of tchotchkes–bags and fans and things). We decided to do our own Tashlich at the canal–where bits of bread and crumbs are thrown into the river, and one’s own reflection is contemplated at the start of a new year–so we bought some sandwiches and headed over.
It was not my best hair day. Tant pis. In the excitement of eating our sandwiches and the glorious weather, we completely forgot to dump out our crumbs into the river. But that’s okay. We can repent for it on Yom Kippur.
That evening, I headed over to Hallie’s for Rosh Hashanah dinner, bearing apples, honey, and little potatoes to boil and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Hallie made chicken with peppers and BAKED A CHALLAH, which was delicious.
Hallie lit the candles and we said the brachot, but realized that since the last time we had said them, we had completely forgotten the tune and the words. Whoops. But it all worked out, and the two of us plus Hallie’s roommate Lizzie had a lovely Rosh Hashana dinner.
L’Shanah Tovah, tout le monde!