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08/11/2022 10:04:22 AM


Rabbi Scott Hausman -Weiss

It’s probably unnecessary to once again recognize the uniqueness of this moment.  But indeed it has been a very, very long time since Jews, Jewish families, and those who love them, as well as our neighbors, colleagues, and fellow strangers have found ourselves sheltering in our homes for fear of the outside.  Some are terribly frightened of the risks to their health and those whom they love.  Others are caught in the terrible vice grip of having to choose between livelihood and health.  Still others, in this moment, wonder where they will learn and where they will teach, and how these remain tenable.  So much heartache, so much fear, and far too many slings and arrows shot out of rage and anger and doubt.  

This is also a time of great promise - civic engagement growing in leaps and bounds, citizens paying so much more attention to their representatives, human beings praying and meditating and realigning priorities in ways and manners not often seen.  For many, this “Age of COVID” has been a wake-up call to the detritus of a civilization too often forgetful that indeed a society is only as strong as its weakest link.  I have personally witnessed the soulful growth of folks who had never really prayed before.  I mean, they have attended services, and at times, at moments, felt the fracture of a broken heart…but so many of us haven’t really prayed that much of our lives.  Perhaps it’s a civilizational hazard, at least when things are going mostly right.  We Rabbis are grateful for the High Holy Days.  Not simply because they have served us well, as congregations and Jewish communities, but because we “get you back” in so much larger numbers, at least for a little while.  However, as you are aware, this is a different time – different but no less important.  In fact, far more so.

I would argue that as unconventional as these High Holy Days will be for all of us, they may also be the most important Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayers we have uttered.  Much is on the line – and as Pirke Avot teaches, “Rabbi Tarfon used to say, ‘The day is short; there is much work to be done; yet the laborers are lazy, even though the wages are great and the Housebuilder is insistent.”  No, not a terribly inspiring take on human beings but perhaps it’s just that God has high expectations of us:

…that we will overcome our jealousy to act with dignity towards our neighbor.

…that we will allow the din of the story of our fellow to be heard over the roar of our own.

…that we will accept that the messiness of viruses are a natural outgrowth of the fantasticness of being alive in a world in which our creative ability can be both our redemption and our undoing.  

The High Holy Days arrive for us just in time.  Almost exactly one half of a year has passed since COVID-19 became a household name (more “household” than we ever would have imagined) – enough time for the novel to cease being so, but not so much time that we cannot turn the ship.  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are laden down with messages we must heed.   And so, Shma Koleinu endeavors to bring them to life with relevance, engagement, powerful lessons and truly inspiring, soul-lifting music.  

If you’re one of those who hasn’t ever really listened to our liturgy at this time of year, now is the time.  If you have rarely been touched or are simply in need of being touched by the holy depth of the words and teachings of this tradition that implores us to act with the belief that redemption is always possible, this year is your year.  You can sit in the comfort of your home, prayer book or prayer tablet in hand, choosing whether or not to wear shoes, getting to choose the exact volume you would prefer (or perhaps that which your spouse or partner prefer) and let the words of our faith wash over your soul as water upon rough stone.  This is your moment.  This is our moment when we can be renewed.  

Mon, May 29 2023 9 Sivan 5783