Joy and Trouble
October 15, 2008
Today I will finish off my Jewish New Year train of thought.
The most common Rosh Hashanah greeting I’ve heard is something along the lines of, “May the new year be sweet.” There is a definite focus on sweet foods as a metaphor for good things to come. Apples dipped in honey and honey cake in particular.
The other common greeting that I’ve heard is a wish for nachas. No, not nachos. No chips and salsa in Judaism. Nachas. Pronounced with the gutteral ch sound. Sort of like knock-us, but instead of ck, you sort of clear your throat.
Nachas is yiddish for pride and joy. The opposite is tsuris, meaning trouble, worry, heartache.
Both words can have broad meanings, but typically nachas refers to joy specifically from children or grandchildren.
The entire holiday therefore feels exclusionary, inadvertent though it may be. The well-intentioned e-cards and mass emails mock my infertility.
During the almost 7 years I have been trying to conceive, I have had exactly 8 days of nachas, the 8 days before my first miscarriage. That works out to 0.3% nachas and 99.7% tsuris.
If I conceived during the next IVF cycle, by the time my hypothetical child started kindergarten, my nachas:tsuris ratio wouldn’t even be 50:50. By the time the child graduated from high school, it would be up to 75% nachas and 25% tsuris, assuming that throughout adolescence the child did not give me a single day of tsuris. Fat chance of that, but bear with me. And assuming that the child continues to offer nothing but joy every day thereafter, my nachas:tsuris ratio won’t exceed 90:10 until the child is almost ready to retire. Perhaps the child would be a grandparent by then, and I will have become a great-grandmother. Did I mention that 7 years is a really long time?
I don’t mind the wishes for a sweet year, but maybe people can lay off the nachas wishes for the infertiles and others without children. Instead, next year’s Rosh Hashanah greeting cards can declare:
May the new year be filled with nachos.