A Weekly Message from Rabbi Sam Levine 9.17.2020

Dear friends,

We are only hours from Rosh Hashana. In a year unlike any other, we are all trying to make sense of our reality. Grieving for what we are missing, celebrating the things we have, and finding meaning in the chaos around us are all intertwined this year in a way that is deeply disorienting. Jewish clergy and synagogue professionals have been reconfiguring services, education programs, and synagogue operations in ways that are making our heads spin. For my part, despite the workload, I am truly looking forward to standing on the bimah of our sanctuary and delving into Holy Day services that I hope will offer comfort and familiarity to me and to all of us. God knows we need that right now. The liturgy, the melodies, the sanctity and awe of the day – all of these lend great meaning to the idea of starting a new year.

I wanted to share a few last minute points and reminders before we begin our Holy Day odyssey on Friday night. First of all, if you haven’t ordered a machzor (High Holy Day prayer book) online or picked up a copy at EMJC, you still have a couple of days to do so. Call the synagogue office and make arrangements! (you can still order the digital version of the Machzor Lev Shalem – it’s only a few bucks but you’ll need a device to read it on – computer, iPad, etc…). You can also borrow a tallit from the synagogue.

I also wanted to share a few notes about services. In the interests of shortening the service, we will not be doing Birkot Hashachar (the preliminary morning prayers). If it is your practice to recite that part of the service, please do so before we begin at 9:00 am on Shabbat. Psukei d’Zimrah will be significantly abbreviated, so likewise, according to your practice.

Aside from the fact that we will be on Zoom (and YouTube Live), you will notice some changes to the structure of the service. What we have prepared maintains the integrity of a traditional service, but also makes some modifications and introduces some innovations. I hope you will find it meaningful and fulfilling.

Of course, one of the greatest mitzvot associated with Rosh Hashana is the blowing of the shofar. We do not sound the shofar on Shabbat, but on Sunday, we will be blowing the shofar (remotely) during the service. Technically (halachically – from a Jewish religious legal perspective), hearing the shofar ‘virtually’ is not acceptable for fulfilling the mitzvah. Having said that, because of the extraordinary circumstances this year, that will have to do if you are not able to get out. If you are able to venture out on Sunday afternoon, though, please join us AT THE SYNAGOGUE, in the courtyard, at 3:30, for a tashlich service and a shofar blowing at 4:00. We will do the requisite number of blasts at that time.

As far as your own experience of services goes, I would suggest that you find a place in your home that you can turn into a mikdash me’at – a small sanctuary. Tidy up your space, make it cozy with few distractions, get a comfy chair, and try to feel like you’re in shul with Cantor Julia and me. By creating sacred space in your home, you might feel a closer connection to the service.

Those participating on Zoom are invited to unmute themselves at the appropriate places (answering “amen,’ other responses, etc); we are trying to create an atmosphere where people can be heard and where the rhythm of the synagogue can be felt and experienced. Having said that, PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO KEEP YOURSELF MUTED WHEN YOU ARE NOT PARTICIPATING OR RESPONDING AT THE APPROPRIATE PLACES. This is simple Zoom etiquette and will go a long way to making everyone’s experience more spiritual and satisfying.

Please allow me to wish you all a truly good and sweet year filled with positive change, healing for our broken world and for ourselves, and light and love and connection and kindness and compassion.

Ktivah v’Chatima Tovah – May we all be well-written and sealed…

Many blessings,

Rabbi Sam Levine