As a son of a community Rabbi and Principal, one of my earliest memories is DREADING the High Holy Days. I used to literally count how many days it was until next Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur like most kids would count how many days before school starts. Being a child of a public role model, I was expected at an early age to sit quietly and attentively during prayers. To make matters worse, in my childhood there was no genre of English Judaica. We had the stiffly translated Birnbaum Machzor, and one Jewish book, “Tales of the Baal Shem”. I went stir crazy as the Cantor warbled Mussaf incessantly. (Did I mention that in my time there no one really knew about ADD?) While most people were praying for a good year, success and health I was simply praying to be let out of this purgatory called davening.
Fast forward four decades and my most intimate friends and family will testify that I LOVE davening. Honestly, how did such a transformation occur? The Ten Plagues or the splitting of the Red Sea are redundant as signs demonstrating G-d’s wondrous miracles. That my Father’s misguided, but pure intentions translated into me truly loving davening despite the insanity that I was subjected to, is alone evidence to providence.
Now that I am a successful father and grandfather and survivor of the oddly strange practices of a religion that sometimes alienates those it wishes to draw close, I offer parents some advice about shul during these days of awe: