Who doesn’t need a new year?
I say we vote out 2020 and vote in 5781, all of us.
After six months of this coronavirus, even gentiles like me are craving a new start.
The pandemic. The politics. The protests.
It can wear out your soul.
The Jewish new year offers a chance to replenish your soul. It starts the evening of Friday, Sept. 18 with Rosh Hashanah and ends the evening of Sunday, Sept. 20. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, starts the evening of Sunday, Sept. 27, and ends the evening of Monday, Sept. 28.
The High Holy Days will be different this year.
Some synagogues will be live streaming services, while others will offer pre-recorded services, Zoom events or live ones for those willing to take the risk.
Some synagogues are preparing Rosh Hashanah in a box. You get dried apple rings, a jar of honey, a prayer book and blank postcards to send to family who can’t join you this year.
If you do go to services in person, don’t go if you have a fever. Wear a mask over your mouth and your nose. A mask is not a chin strap or a headband. It must cover both your mouth and your nose to work.
Stay 6 feet away, and no hugging or kissing. That might be the hardest part of this pandemic, not embracing the people you love.
The upside of going online? You don’t have to get dressed up and listen to your kids complain about those starchy dress clothes. Plus, no parking nightmares, no temple traffic jam, no security lines.
It won’t be the same without a large crowd to pray with, and no running into friends you haven’t seen since last year.
You might have to listen to the shofar on Zoom or YouTube. Or if you do attend a service, the shofar may wear a mask. It still won’t muffle the joy of a new year.
You can go big or go home. I read that you can join Daveed Diggs, Idina Menzel and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for High Holy Days worship virtually at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C. The synagogue/arts and entertainment center launched a “You In A Pew” fundraiser. For $36, you get a photo of yourself next to a cardboard cutout of these famous Jews.
The High Holy Days won’t be normal, but they can be more meaningful than ever. Instead of focusing on what isn’t the same or who isn’t there, we can elevate it and celebrate what is.
Celebrate that you are resilient. That we’re all in this together. That we care enough about each other to not gather. That in itself is a mitzvah.
Acknowledge the fragility of life, the big lesson of this past year. And also your resilience. We’ve all buried someone we loved or mourned with someone who has. We’ve all missed seeing grandkids we love, or grandparents we cherish, or siblings and friends we treasure.
And look for more awe. It’s all around us.
I love Yom Kippur, when the Book of Life opens on a table before God. We’ve all experienced enough awful this year. Anything is possible in the Days of Awe.
What will be written there? What have we written in our own book of life this past year?
Your page might be full of resentments, grudges, fears, anxiety or confusion. Or it could be full of joy and gratitude, hope and promise, even in the midst of all this uncertainty.
What will God write on it? Will you be inscribed in the book of life?
When God weighs the good against the bad, how will we fare?
I think it depends on what kind of God you believe in. I believe in the God of second, third and fourth chances, a God who loves me in spite of me, a God who blesses us all with abundant love.
The High Holy Days won’t be the way we want them to be. I’ll miss the world class break-the-fast feast my friends Beth and Michael put on. It’s quite a spread, and I’m not talking about the great food, but the feast of friends and family that gather around the tables.
Right now, none of us has the life we planned on, but we’re still here.
So, dip some apples in honey and with each bite, give thanks for the sweetness of the life we do have.
Connect with her on Facebook at ReginaBrettFans.