A Weekly Message from Rabbi Sam Levine 6.18.2020

Hard to believe, but the High Holidays are just around the corner.  A committee was put together to discuss our plans for the holidays, and we met this past Monday night to begin the discussion.  The big announcement is that we will not be holding High Holiday services in person this fall.  After much deliberation, an examination of best practices, and continued concerns regarding infection from our medical consultants, we have determined that the risk of Covid-19 remains too great, and we will not be in a position to ensure people’s safety come September.  In case you were not aware, being in enclosed spaces, especially where people are singing (or yelling and chanting, as at a political rally) presents an even higher risk of infection.  

Because we will be holding services on Zoom, modifications will need to be made.  While I hope to be able to preserve the spirit of a traditional service for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, certain modifications will need to be made, and it’s safe to say that the service will be different than in normal years.  As the summer progresses, I’ll have a better sense of what that means, and I’ll try to keep you all apprised.  

One change that will be necessary this year is a change in the prayer book.  For many many (many many) years, we have used the Silverman machzor.  I have been eager to purchase a new High Holiday prayer book, and this has been a matter of discussion within the Ritual Committee for several years now.  That conversation is ongoing.  Having said that, this year we will be basing ourselves in the Conservative Machzor Lev Shalem.  The main reason for this is that its publisher, the Rabbinical Assembly, is making a digital version of it available for free online, so everyone who has access to the internet should be able to download it.  While it is not certain that this is the prayerbook EMJC will use in the future, you may wish to purchase a hard-copy for yourself and/or your family if you prefer to have an actual book in your hands (I know I do).  There are two good reasons to do that:

  1. This machzor has some nice features, including meaningful commentary and transliterations of some parts of the service, and will always be a good companion volume at least.

  2. The Rabbinical Assembly is making it available for a deeply discounted price THROUGH THE END OF JUNE ONLY.  You may purchase it for a total of $29.40 plus $7.29 shipping, for a total of $36.69 and it will be delivered right to your door.  Here is the link: https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/node/145.

If neither the digital version nor the print version is appealing to you, or if you’re just the nostalgic type, you may arrange to pick up a copy of the Silverman Machzor from the synagogue – we will be announcing pages in both books.

On another matter, I was asked to share my remarks from this past Shabbat with the entire congregation.  In case you missed it on Shabbat and are interested, it speaks to the American moment that we are living through.  It will be sent in a separate email and will be posted on the website.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach – a peaceful and blessed Shabbat,

Rabbi Sam Levine