A Weekly Message from Rabbi Sam Levine 9.3.2020


With Rosh Hashana beginning two weeks from tonight, I’d like to fill you in on some important information regarding the holidays.

As I’m sure everyone is aware, we will be conducting all High Holy Day services online. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the main services will be somewhat abbreviated this year as we recognize that five-hour Zoom services aren’t tenable. We are a designing a service that honors the liturgy and our statutory obligations but also accounts for the strange circumstances that we find ourselves in this year.

Please note that Room J and Katan services will also be running online. Families and children are encouraged to participate in those special services. That information will be out within the next few days. You can contact roomj@emjc.org with any questions.

With regard to other details, here is a basic run-down of what you need to know:


Next Saturday night, we will be joining together with other communities in S’lichot Across Brooklyn. The service will feature contributions from the rabbis and cantors of fourteen synagogues and organizations. You can request the Zoom link here:


High Holy Day Service times:

The full schedule of service times (for the entire holiday season) is nearly completed and will be out in the next few days.

High Holy Day Prayer Books and Tallitot (prayer shawls):

We decided early in the summer that we would be basing our services in the Machzor Lev Shalem, the most recent High Holy Day machzor (prayer book) from the Rabbinical Assembly. That machzor has a service that is already abbreviated so it seemed suitable for our purposes this year. Unfortunately, the Rabbinical Assembly has run out of copies, so if you don’t own one, it will be difficult (and/or expensive) to purchase one. A digital version is available for purchase ($5.99) here:


We will also be announcing pages in the Silverman Machzor (the one we have used for many years at EMJC). Many of you own copies of that machzor, and if you don’t you are free to pick up a copy from the synagogue. They can be found in the lobby. There is no charge – you can come in and take copies for you and your family.


There may be some readings or prayers that are in only one (or in neither) machzor. In that case, we will try to screen-share the text.

If you wish to borrow a tallit from the synagogue, you can pick one up from the synagogue office during business hours.


The ritual of casting away our sins into a body of water typically takes place on the first day or Rosh Hashana, but because the first day falls on Shabbat this year, it is deferred to the next day. Under normal circumstances, we meet at the Brooklyn College Pond every year, but because of Covid-19 closures, it is not clear whether BC will be open to the public (I spoke with BC security this morning). An alternative location could be the waterfall at Avenue I and East 16th Street. Please stay tuned for an update.

Wherever we gather, we will be strictly observing social distancing, both from one another and from the many other people who will no doubt be gathering for the same purpose. If we are able to enter Brooklyn College, we will assemble at an open spot on the lawn, recite the Tashlich prayers, do a short study, and then one by one make our way over to the pond to quickly cast our crumbs into the water. PLEASE WEAR A MASK WHEN GOING OUT IN PUBLIC.


The shofar is the central symbol of Rosh Hashana. There is an obligation to hear the shofar being blown on that day. We do not blow shofar on Shabbat, however, so the obligation applies only to Sunday, the second day of RH. Unfortunately, most halachists (legal decisors) agree that one does not fulfill the obligation by hearing the shofar over the internet. In order to make it possible for people to fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the shofar being blown, we will blow shofar at Tashlich (giving you an added reason to come!).

There is also an effort underway to set up shofar blowing “stations” at various locations around the borough. “Shofar Across Brooklyn” will be sending promotional materials in the next few days. I will share that as soon as it is available. There are currently a few other locations south of Prospect Park where you will be able to hear shofar.

Candle Lighting Blessings:

Most of the required blessings and prayers can be found in any siddur or machzor.

Because Rosh Hashanah coincides with Shabbat this year, I will clarify that the blessing over the candles for erev Rosh Hashanah (9/18) is Baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvo-tav v’tzivanu lehadlik ner shel Shabbat v’Yom Tov.

The blessing for the second night of Rosh Hashanah (9/19) and Yom Kippur (9/27) is Baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvo-tav v’tzivanu lehadlik ner she Yom Tov.


On both nights, the bracha over the candles should be followed by Shehecheyanu: Baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam, she-he-che-yanu, v’kiy-emanu, v’hi-gi-anu laz’man hazeh. On the second night, it is traditional to have a fruit that you have not eaten all year (something exotic? Star-fruit? Papaya?).

For those who are observant with regard to flames, you should prepare a flame ahead of time that will burn through the holiday. You can contact me for details.

Because of all the uncertainty this year, please be patient with any last-minute changes that we may need to make. And stay tuned for updates!

Wishing you all a year of BLESSING, HEALTH, MINDFULNESS, AND JOY. May this be a year of reunions with friends and loved ones, of embracing and socializing, and of personal and national healing. AMEN!

L’shana Tovah tikateivu v’techateimu – In this year of 5781, may we all be written and sealed for life and blessing.

Rabbi Sam Levine