On Tues­day, Haley Tan­ner wrote about her mother’s bless­ing. She has been blog­ging all week for MyJew­ish­Learn­ing and Jew­ish Book Council‘s Author Blog.

Years ago my fam­i­ly decid­ed to take our cel­e­bra­tion of Rosh Hashanah out of our Con­ser­v­a­tive syn­a­gogue. We were feel­ing sti­fled by the long hours sit­ting in uncom­fort­able clothes — we were dis­tract­ed by the out­fits, the gos­sip, the per­fume and the fur coats. Rosh Hashanah had lost its mean­ing for us, and we want­ed it back.

My moth­er is fond of say­ing that of all the ani­mals on earth, human beings are unique in our abil­i­ty to step back, to reflect, to sep­a­rate cer­tain times and days as sacred or spe­cial. We knew that we had to main­tain the sacred­ness of the hol­i­day, to sep­a­rate it from the same­ness of oth­er days. For years we had relied on the insti­tu­tion of syn­a­gogue to do it for us — now we were on our own. So we took to the woods. We went camp­ing. And we are not avid campers. We are not campers by any stretch of the imagination.

We packed three cars with tents, air mat­tress­es, down blan­kets, brisketmat­zoh ball soupgefilte fishchal­lahs, hon­ey cake, apples and hon­ey, white linen table cloth (for the pic­nic table) and my great-grandmother’s sil­ver candlesticks.

Once we got there, we talked about our year, and the year ahead of us. My par­ents talked to me and my broth­er and sis­ter about what they want­ed for us as peo­ple — about they way they want­ed us to be in the world. We suc­ceed­ed com­plete­ly in sep­a­rat­ing our­selves — in cre­at­ing a sacred space, a bub­ble around us, where the world did not exist — a place of reflec­tion and escape.

I’ve been asked over and over again about the role of mag­ic in my first nov­el, Vaclav and Lena. I’ve always imag­ined that the per­for­mance of mag­ic is just like sto­ry­telling — we all know that the woman is not sawed in half, that the quar­ter did not dis­ap­pear. We all know that the char­ac­ters are fic­tion­al, the events a fab­ri­ca­tion, but still, we laugh and cry and wor­ry along with them. We sus­pend our dis­be­lief for a time, and allow our­selves to be car­ried away to anoth­er place, anoth­er time — where we escape our every­day lives and are able to explore our minds, hopes and dreams, unhin­dered by the things we’re dis­tract­ed by in our every­day lives.

When my fam­i­ly camps out in the woods to cel­e­brate a new year, we light can­dles, and a sacred time begins. We sit by a fire togeth­er, and we can escape the every­day, and think about what we tru­ly want for our­selves, for the year, for each other.

Haley Tan­ners first nov­el, Vaclav and Lena, is now available.