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High Holidays 5781 - A Message from Rabbi Kaiman

BACKGROUND

In this pandemic, we are all quickly adapting to a reality where our value of gathering large groups together in prayer conflicts directly with our value of Pikuach Nefesh.  I have researched, reflected and commissioned a talented group of congregants to discuss options and make a recommendation. With deep thanks to past Religious Life Committee chair Robbie Medwed, current RLC chair Baruch Stiftel, Rabbinic Intern Sammy Rosenbaum, Executive Director Jodi Salomon, Spiritual Music Innovator Ori Salzberg, the whole RLC and all who contributed to the effort so far, this is our plan for a unique High Holiday Experience of 5781. 
 

WHAT ARE THE HIGH HOLIDAYS FOR?

Every year we are called to examine our souls and find the ways we can transform for the better.  The goals of this year are no different. In some ways, Covid-19 has forced us to transform, and we are constantly struggling for that transformation to be for the better.  Since all of this is unprecedented in our lifetimes, we are constantly experimenting and discovering as we go.  

HOW WILL CONGREGATION SHEARITH ISRAEL OBSERVE THE HIGH HOLIDAYS THIS YEAR?
 

Our primary prayer experience will be oriented toward your homes through Zoom.  All are welcome to join us for our prayer, which we hope will feel as familiar as possible.  Familiar rituals we experience year after year give us the constant by which we measure change. We long to see everyone in person again, and we grieve the loss of that ability right now. We have faith that our prayers for a vaccine will be answered, and that one day, this too shall pass.  

If you are unable for technological or religious reasons to join us on Zoom, we have not forgotten you. We are supporting a small number of in-person, lay-led and socially-distanced experiences.  These will be completely lay organized and led. If you are interested in organizing and leading an experience, please let us know as soon as possible. If you are interested in attending, please know that we will do everything possible to match you with an experience, but space will be extremely limited.  

The High Holiday season is more than the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Our talented team of lay leaders and professionals are crafting experiences and opportunities for engagement we hope will facilitate our collective change for the better.  We’ll be bringing shofar blasts to your neighborhood. We will be organizing small group Yizkor circles to better remember your loved ones. We will be casting off our sins at multiple locations for Tashlich.  We will still be collecting food for Operation Isaiah. In the coming weeks we will share more details about how to take part in these activities. 

With gratitude to our leadership team who helped craft this plan, and to our Creator, who made us with the ability to change for the better. 

INTRODUCING OUR PRIMARY TEXT

We are shifting from the paradigm of “Love and awe of God’s Name” to the famous teaching of Hillel the Elder who said: He used to say: If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, then when?

:הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי. וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי. וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתָי


 

This rendering of the phrase is found in Mercedez Benz Stadium. We won’t be seeing this art in person for a long time, as long as large gatherings remain dangerous to our lives, and the lives of our loved ones.  

The love that binds this community together, with one another and with the worldwide Jewish community, is stronger than the challenge of physical distance. Through the strength of Torah, and the creative energy that God gave us when we work together, we hope to create an even more meaningful High Holiday season this year.  

I look forward to the many opportunities that are coming to learn and pray together, to grow in our knowledge and love, and change ourselves for the better. 

In love for our community,

 

 

Rabbi Ari Kaiman

Thu, September 24 2020 6 Tishrei 5781