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09/07/2023 04:40:22 PM


Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss

I am anxious.  I am feeling a bit raw.  

In September 2020, we reinvented the High Holy Days and as difficult as that was, it was a time filled with incredible energy and ironically, possibility.  

In September 2021, it felt, as they say in yiddish, nisht ahin un nisht aher, “Neither here nor there.”  Masked, not masked, in-person, on-line, COVID emergency’s over, its not over.  I tried to discern through your eyes what you were feeling, what you were experiencing.  Oh how I missed seeing your smiles and grimaces.  

In September 2022, “we were back” but not really.  Something still seemed amiss.  

Now, this September, I’ve been feeling a renewed energy in the world, maybe despite or maybe because of the doomsday news, oppressive heat, and hurricanes off the coasts.  But this energy is coming from Hannah and Rabbi Laura, from our musicans and book of life speakers, from our volunteers, who are stepping up to help us celebrate our 10th year!  

And yet I am anxious.  Because too many of you have shared with me your reluctance to find inspiration in the days ahead.  As Rabbi Alan Lew, z.l., described with the title of his most important book on the High Holy Days, “This is real and you are completely unprepared.”  He reminds us powerfully, that the days of awe are a journey of transformation.  He wrote:

So the walls of our great house, are crumbling all the time, and not just in midsummer at Tisha B’Av, when we mourn the destruction of the temple. Every moment of our lives, the sacred house of our life – the constructs by which we live, and to which we hold on so fiercely, nevertheless falls away. Every moment, we take in breath, and the world comes into being, and then we let out a breath, and the world falls away. Every moment, we experience what we take to be death, loss, and failure. When we become aware that this is happening, we feel dislocated, uprooted, filled with sorrow and anxiety. We feel estranged from our own lives, and we realize how much these constructs have been keeping us from the reality of our lives, how we have been using them to give us a distance from the gnawing suspicion that we have no house – that we are afloat in a great sea of being, an endless flow of becoming in which we are connected to all beings. The great journey of transformation begins with the acknowledgment that we need to make it. It is not something we are undertaking for amusement, not even for the sake of convention; rather it is a spiritual necessity.

This is real and you are completely unprepared.  The High Holy Days are filled with language and metaphors, analogies and contexts so often borne out of pre-modern times; it can all feel a little “old school.”  You might say to yourself, “This doesn’t really apply to me, I mean nobody gets a guarantee to be written into the book of life for another year, no matter how good they were, no matter how hard they pray.”  And this is exactly why you need to prepare, or at least you need to invite yourself into a head space and soulfulness that resists your own cynicism and put faith in the project.  Here is your mantra - “I will grow into and through these High Holy Days. Its words, its music, the images it paints, and those that fill my mind will take me on a journey of self-discovery.  The rituals are the foundation upon which your soul gets to dance – don’t get stuck by the terrible imperfections in language, and translated language at that!  We are just trying to put into words our deep and innate sense that the ethereal is real.  And by confronting it, God may not save us, but it makes us worthy of being saved.  

Thu, May 23 2024 15 Iyyar 5784