I did not grow up in an observant Jewish household—the only Jewish holiday I ever observed was Chanukah. So when I first went to Chabad and experienced the High Holidays, I have to admit, I initially found them nothing short of terrifying. It all moved so fast. What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to recite? It was very intimidating, especially when it felt like I was the only one who had little to no idea what was going on. Everyone around me was experiencing a range of emotions that I didn’t share. I had never understood everyone’s enthusiasm on January 1st; what did I need another New Year’s for?

When my second round of High Holidays was What was I supposed to do?on the horizon, I dreaded them. I dreaded the confusion, the songs I didn’t know, the customs I wasn’t accustomed to. My four-year-old daughter, on the other hand, was thrilled. Kids have a funny way of adapting so much faster than their parents. After only a short time, everything around her had become the norm of her existence. She matched my mounting dread with her mounting anticipation of making shofars in Chabad’s shofar workshop, cutting out apple shapes in Gan Yeladim Preschool, and gluing her photo on a cardboard pomegranate.

I tried to mirror my daughter’s enthusiasm, but I just couldn’t. I went through all of the motions, I read up on the meaning of this observance and that observance, but I still couldn’t elicit anything more from myself—that is, until the very end of Yom Kippur. There I was, tired, hungry, wanting to go home. My eyes and my mind were wandering. And then, when I wasn’t expecting it, the shofar sounded loud and long, startling me and literally making me jump.

Cesare Pavese once said, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” That is how I feel about that moment. I don’t remember all of my thoughts during the days leading up to that sound. I don’t remember what I chose to wear that day, the conversations I had or what the weather was like. But I do remember that moment when I heard that one shofar blow, and I think I always will. It was the first time I felt like it was a new year. Yes, maybe the feeling came on the wrong day, but there it was. Looking around at everyone, I felt that I shared their feelings for the first time. It was a new year! Everything would begin again—new opportunities taken and missed, triumphs and losses, elation and sadness, the pain and joy of watching my child grow, and all the ups and downs of the human experience. How fortunate I was that I had all of this to look forward to!

I wish I could better explain the feeling I had that moment, or that I could fully understand what elicited it. It is something I will never forgetWhat I can say is that it was something I will never forget. Because of that moment, I now have an attitude closer to my daughter’s: When the High Holidays are approaching, I no longer dread what I don’t know; I look forward to what I’m going to learn. I look forward to hearing my daughter sing, “Dip the apple in the honey, say a brachah loud and clear . . .” And I look forward to a new year, and what a gift it is to have. Shanah tovah to you and yours.