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Al Chet

That’s al chet as in the Hebrew “for the sin”, what you call the long confession on Yom Kippur.

I’m not terribly observant, but there are a few holidays I still enjoy-or in this case still think are important. Passover is one, because how can you not be descended from East European Jewish immigrants and not appreciate being free? For that matter, how can you not be a white U.S. citizen and not appreciate all the advantages that status confers on you?

I also have a healthy respect for Yom Kippur (though not a perfect respect, as I am currently breaking the rules by blogging). With its fasting and chest-beating and marathon length, it’s not high on the fun scale. But there’s much to be said for an annual moral accounting. Where have you been good? Where have you been bad? Where have you improved? Where is there still room for improvement? Atonement may not be a good time, but it is good for the soul.

My accounting has been more or less the same for about 20 years now. I’m not violent. I’m not vicious. I’m neither a gambler nor a glutton nor a cheat. But every year I get to the bits in the al chet that cover idle gossip and/or pettiness and jealousy, and I think “Busted! This year, I mean it, this year, I’m going to stop the gossiping and chattering and just be nicer.” Well, self, good luck with that. Maybe the 21st try will the charm.

There is one member of my family, however, who is nearly perfectly innocent: Simon, of course.  It won’t be appropriate for him to recite the al chet for some time-not until he’s at least 10 or so I’d think-but I know his days of perfect innocence are nearing an end. Any day now that little ego and id will be unleashed on the world with no super-ego in sight to keep things in check. The era of naked aggression, of possessiveness, of tantrums, of negativity, and of willfulness lurks just around the corner.

But before he gets to “no!” or “mine!”, we are enjoying an Indian summer of innocence, as beautiful as it is transient.

The one thing Simon may want to consider atoning for, if he knew how, is for taking a swipe at his old man. Evie was over Thursday, and Simon hadn’t seen her for two weeks. The minute he laid eyes on her, his whole body lit up. He smiled,  clapped, cooed, and his eyes sparkled extra bright. He was overjoyed to see her. Matt made the terrible mistake of trying to join in on the fun, putting himself between Simon and his grandma. Bad move.

Simon yelled and started swatting away at Matt. He knocked his hands away, swatted at his face, and let his displeasure be known in very clear terms. Not very respectful of his parent, and a little on the violent and possessive side as well. That’s at least three sins. As this was only the second incidence of temper we have seen, it’s new and funny. I suspect more is coming in the year ahead, and it will become much less funny as a result.

But I’ll worry about toddler tantrums later. Tomorrow I’ll be focused on my own sins in the sanctuary while Simon enjoys playtime in the al-chet-less nursery.

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