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Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy and smooth set of nights and days.

09/11/2019 11:43:07 AM


Who is invited to the High Holy Days at Shma Koleinu? (cont'd)

For the past two weeks, I have issued “invitations” to people stuck in different mind frames that might make the High Holy Days feel less “inviting.”  As my grandmother used to say, “Poppycock!” I echo her now, because if those who are feeling disconnected or those who are feeling a deep sense of dread aren’t “invited” to the High Holy Days, who is?  I mean, what would the point be then?  To just sing and celebrate and act as if everything is perfectly copacetic? 

Celebration and affirmation and association are certainly worthwhile ingredients of the High Holy Day experience.  But they are certainly not sufficient.  And if you’re wondering whence this great chochma (great wisdom), don’t look at me.  Just pay attention to the texts we will recite, chant and sing on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. 

Our Torah readings will remind us of Abraham and Sarah’s moral failures even as they are still God’s “chosen ones.”  Our Haftarah readings will include the Prophet Isaiah haranguing us for fasts of little merit, for they do not inspire us to break the shackles of tyranny in our midst.  The liturgy will humble us with profound efficacy, as we are reminded of our base mortality and the truth of our vulnerabilities to the randomness of life. 

“Who shall live and who shall die?  Who by fire and who by water?” 

“Our Father, our King, answer us with grace, for we know we are lacking, redeem us.”

“This night I take up the challenge of the Days of Awe: cheshbon hanefesh – a searching examination of my life, a moral inventory of my deeds, words, and thoughts.”

“And here is the truth of this day: You are the judge and plaintiff, counselor and witness.

You inscribe and seal.  You record and recount.  You remember all that we have forgotten.  And when You open the Book of Memories, it speaks for itself – for every human hand leaves its mark, an imprint like no other.”

Yes, we will indeed sing and celebrate as we always do.  And truth be told, those who attend our High Holy Days find, at times, that they have begun to feel guilty that they are “too greatly” enjoying services with us.  Like the High Holy Days are supposed to be dreadful in order to “work.”  (Like some sort of “martyrdom complex,” have you ever heard of people in the Jewish community caught up in that nonsense?)…

The High Holy Days don’t have to be dreadful in order to “work,” they do have to be deeply rooted and grounded. They have to be real and relevant; they have to be soul-lifting and ego-shattering to have really carved their way into our hearts. 

So if you’re looking for only “Happy Go Lucky” or only “Heavy and Profound,” to ensure that you’re satisfied by the High Holy Days, we are not your cup of tea.  But if you’re open to an organic flow of music, teachings and prayer that will take you on a journey of self, sometimes heavy and sometimes light, “Buckle up, its going to be a bumpy and smooth set of nights and days.”

Sat, August 8 2020 18 Av 5780