Area clergy share High Holiday messages

Editor’s note: The TJP is thrilled with the overwhelming response of our local clergy to our request for their High Holiday messages. Due to space constraints, we will run these over the course of two weeks.

Next week:
Cantor Sheri Allen, Rabbi Michael Cohen, Cantor Don Croll, Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum, Rabbi Yaakov Green, Rabbi Mordechai Harris, Rabbi Nancy Kasten, Rabbi Avraham Zev Kosowsky, Rabbi Andrew Paley, Rabbi Yaakov Rich, Rabbi Aryeh Rodin, Rabbi Seymour Rossel, Rabbi Matt Rutta, Rabbi Zecharia Sionit, Rabbi Ben Sternman, Rabbi Nasanya Zakon

Take pride in who you are and what you stand for

By Andrew Bloom

The question of an individual’s Jewish identity, and the importance of guarding our identity, is essential to the Jewish people’s future. A Midrash from Genesis Rabbah on this very subject asks the question of why is Abraham called a “Hebrew” (Genesis 14:13).

The Midrash notes, that the root of “ivri,” the word for Hebrew, can mean either Hebrew, or side, as in the side of a river (Genesis Rabbah 42:8). Based on that interpretation, the Midrash states, “Abraham was on one side of the river, and the rest of the world was on the other.”

Being on one side of the river, when the rest of our society is on the other (without actually cutting ourselves off from the other side), can actually be the very essence of Jewish survival. After more than a century of fighting our way into the center of society, the next big question that looms ahead for American Jews is whether we will have the courage at times to proudly stand up for our own identity, no matter what side of the river this might place us on.

I believe that the path we should follow is one where we celebrate who we are, and not shy away from proudly identifying ourselves with the Jewish community. The Torah teaches us to be “a light among the nations” (Isaiah 49:6). To accomplish this, we need to be proud of our religion, our history, our heritage, our beliefs and our individuality. Thus, as we face the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, let us focus in on our identity so that when we write our names in the Book of Life, it will be with strong penmanship and pride in who we are and what we stand for. For in this manner, 5781 will truly be blessed and will be an exceptional year ahead.

Andrew Bloom is rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Sholom.

Torah in a time of unprecedented upheaval

By Heidi Coretz

Last year we hosted joyful gatherings in our home sukkah all week, and this was the final day. I always talk about the sukkah structure itself and how it must be built in such a way that it isn’t a permanent structure, that a strong storm could knock it down. I point out that on this holiday we are to focus on gratitude to God for the bounty of our harvest, for the many blessings in our lives, and, at the same time, to realize that they are fleeting.

After celebrating Sukkot, our Shir Tikvah community moved into Simchat Torah, singing and dancing in joyful hakkafot. After the festivities ended, a member brought the Torahs inside, leaving them on our dining room table. All of our guests left. We cleaned up and got into bed, exhausted from the busy week. Almost immediately, we became aware that a tornado was heading right to us. We sheltered in a tub in an interior bathroom as it hit our home.

After it ended, we ran to the front door to yell to the neighbors to see if they were all OK. They were. We were. The sight was unbelievable, otherworldly, like bombs went off all over our neighborhood. 

Our friend drove to Cindi’s to pick us up. We quickly packed our wallets, medicine, laptops, charges and some clothes, as we prepared to make our exit.

Wait — the Torahs. What a sight! All but one of our front windows were blown in by the storm, but, the dining room window where the two Torahs sat was the only front window left unbroken. The Torahs were completely untouched, while mostly everything else was covered in glass, dirt and water.

We carefully wrapped up the Sifrei Torah, placing them in clean bags and putting them gently and safely into an inner closet that wasn’t damaged. More storms were on the way.

Torah in a time of unprecedented upheaval…whether a tornado or a pandemic…

These scrolls tell the sacred, inspiring stories of our resilient people, often living through extraordinarily trying, frightening, painful and difficult times, finding their way toward meaning, triumph and freedom. They speak of our ancestors coming together to form a community shaped by laws of justice, gratitude and celebration that bind our people to God and one another. 

The truth is that life can change in an instant, and it just did for all of us in 5780. Some lost homes, businesses, jobs, schools for our children, the ability to travel to a simcha or to celebrate a special occasion. Others suffered the unspeakable loss of loved ones. 

The Torah speaks of our forebears who were tough. Learning from their examples and standing on their shoulders, we too must find the inner strength needed to get through times like these. We have all faced trials and tribulations in our lives, as did our parents, grandparents and all of our ancestors. They got back up and got back to living, and so will we. And we will be there for each other, keeping spirits up when needed the most.

That fateful night of the tornado, we were ready to leave, to take that leap of faith out into the darkness. As were the generations before us in the Torah that set out on treacherous journeys — Abraham and Sarah, those redeemed from slavery, those about to return to our homeland — I was frightened about the journey ahead, but I knew we had to go forward. 

We looked around the house one last time with the flashlight.

I said, “Is there anything else we need? Anything else important?”

We shook our heads no. We were unhurt. That’s all that seemed to matter, all the blessing for which we could hope in that moment.

And so, we ventured out into the unknown, still in shock, not fully comprehending the gift of surviving uninjured that fateful night, clueless about the lengthy journey of recovery and rebuilding that would follow.

Now the Jewish people must journey together in unprecedented times into a new year. It is a time of uncertainty and anxiety, but that exists side-by-side with immense gratitude for the blessings of family and friendship, meaning and purpose, community and health. We will overcome this by working together to care for one another. We will find the many gifts amid this raging storm and we will come out stronger on the other side. May 5781 be a year of health, joy, safety, plenty, meaning and love for us all. Shanah tovah!

Heidi Coretz is the rabbi of Shir Tikvah and Jewish chaplain at SMU.

In 5781, leave baseless hatred behind

By Charlie Cytron-Walker

The Second Temple was destroyed due to baseless hatred. Look around at our society, look within our communities, look in the mirror — baseless hatred is all around us. Bolstered by our hand-picked news station, our righteous indignation overflows. In our arrogance, we know that the truth is on our side. Our sacred teachings are used as weapons to stab at the enemy — anyone who disagrees. 

There’s no need to grapple with nuance, no need to try to understand another view when my rightness is unquestioned. The stench of judgment taints our people and our nation. Lack of trust, lack of faith twists our thinking and breaks ties with beloved friends and family. For how can they think that way? How can they vote that way? Liberal or conservative or in between — if they don’t see it my way there must be something wrong with them!

I long for curiosity, a willingness to explore a new perspective. I cherish questions asked for the sake of understanding. I pray for the day when we value listening, when we value a different perspective.

Perhaps I’m naïve. Perhaps I don’t understand. I might not. Let’s talk about it. I want to learn from you because I care about you and I care about us. I care about our people and our community and our country. We have forgotten what our rabbis knew all too well — disagreement is natural and expected and a part of life. When we deny the possibility that we could be wrong, when we forget that good people can see things differently, we have sinned. And we have sinned.

So when the shofar sounds on Rosh Hashanah and when we beat our chest on Yom Kippur, we have to wake up, we have to atone, we have to do teshuvah (repentance) — for our sake, for the sake of the Jewish community, and for the sake of our nation.

Charlie Cytron-Walker is rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville.

If you were Adam, what would you do on your first day on earth?

By Mendy Kesselman

Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Chava (Eve).

A Midrash tells us that on the very first day of his creation, Adam gathered all the animals and led them in history’s first High Holiday prayer service. Adam said, “Come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before God our Maker” (Psalms 95:6).

Adam understood that as a human being he was a bridge between all creations and their creator. Mankind, with his superior abilities and understanding, is charged with bringing an awareness of God into the world. 

When we see the world around us as an expression of God’s kindness and greatness, we bring the world further along in its purpose — the purpose of the world being: to recognize its dependence and furthermore its unity with its creator. 

It is for this reason that Rosh Hashanah is described as the beginning of God’s work. As we say in the Rosh Hashanah prayers — “Zeh hayom techilat maasecha — This day is the beginning of Your works, a remembrance of the first day.” When mankind was created and began to infuse the consciousness of the world with an awareness of God, this began the process of bringing the world to the fulfillment of its purpose.

Let us recognize our role as God’s ambassadors in this world and in this era. This new year, let us each represent an awareness of God’s sovereignty by broadcasting a message of strength and hope.

We pray for the day that the whole world will be filled with the knowledge of God, and as a result there will be no sickness or war. May it happen speedily, amen.

I wish you and your families a Shanah tovah umetukah, a year of good health, sustenance and nachas from our children.

Mendy Kesselman is rabbi of Chabad of Frisco.

Wholeness will return

By Michael Kushnick

Judaism is a religion based upon community. We rely on a minyan for many of our most essential Jewish moments. We require a minyan to read Torah publicly, to chant the Amidah, and to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish. In addition, we come together as a community to welcome a child into the Jewish tradition and to comfort mourners. With so much of our religion rooted in communal gatherings, being forced to be socially distant for the final six months of 5780 has impacted our personal lives, our mental well-being and our Jewish lives. For many, this pandemic has been the most challenging period in life, and without the firm answers on the future, many feel a sense of loss or brokenness. 

One of the additional names of Rosh Hashanah is Yom Teruah, the Day of Sounding the Shofar. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we will hear 100 blasts, split into different sections. Each section of blasts begins with tekiah, followed by a combination of both shevarim and teruah. Each section always concludes with tekiah. The order of the blasts teach us that we begin whole with one solid blast of tekiah, then we are broken into pieces with three blasts of shevarim, then completely shattered with nine staccato blasts of teruah. After the brokenness of the blasts, the Shofar returns to one solid tekiah to return us to wholeness. 

While the pandemic continues to impact every part of our lives, many feel the brokenness of shevarim and teruah. As we move into 5781 it is easy to let that feeling move us through these High Holidays, but we must recognize that wholeness will return. The final blast of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah and at the conclusion of Yom Kippur is an extra-long tekiah gedolah. This final blast leaves us with the feeling of hope, that the experiences that have left us hurt and lost over the past year, will dissipate as the goodness of a sweet year ahead is possible. 

I wish everyone a happy, healthy and sweet new year. 

Shanah Tovah!

Michael Kushnick is rabbi of Congregation Anshai Torah.

An invitation for connection

By Dan Lewin

The Jewish New Year is not just a way to mark time; it is an infusion of new life into the world, the opportunity for a fresh start. The precise term we use, Rosh Hashanah (literally, head of the year), is a teaching in itself: Just as the head guides the rest of the body, so too the sincere effort we make on this day determines the flows of the following months.

The common understanding of what takes place is the “Day of Judgment,” a solemn atmosphere in which the fate of each person is decided, “written.” But it is much more than that. The Torah title is the “Day of Blowing the Shofar.” The piercing sound of the shofar, the main mitzvah (which occurs on the second day this year), is an essential wake-up call to remember how fragile we are — a particularly relevant reminder during these turbulent times — and to humbly accept that there is a higher authority who steers our destiny.

Rosh Hashanah also marks the creation of mankind. The Creator and sustainer of all life — the “King” to whom we refer in the many prayers — is not like a fleshly dictator who seeks to impose his will on blind followers. Rather, He desires a mutual relationship with each person. This connection begins with an internal shift that will ultimately impact the world. 

In this sense, true “tikkun olam,” uplifting the world at large, begins with fixing ourselves, wherein each person is regarded as “a miniature world” in need of mending.

As we take the necessary steps on this day to reflect and to commit to increasing in the three major pillars of Torah study, prayer and good deeds, we in turn receive an abundance of blessings, both materially and spiritually.

Spiritual blessings enhance our ability to have a sensitive heart: to connect and empathize with others, to feel inspired, and to distinguish that which is holy and righteous from that which is mundane or harmful. Material blessings flow in the form of health, wealth and children.

May our many efforts during this time bring healing and happiness — a “sweet” year of visible good.

Dan Lewin is rabbi of Maayan Chai.

The beauty of life lives in the gray

By Jeremy Litton

The year 5780 can be described as a complicated year at best — a year complete with very mixed experiences and emotions. At first glance, the year was stressful, hard and draining. On the other hand, there are countless families who mention the newfound appreciation instilled for many things that we generally take for granted, such as school, family bonding time, going to the grocery store. 

As Rosh Hashanah approaches and we take a mental accounting of the past year’s course, the thought may cross one’s mind as to how we should relate to this past year. It is interesting to note that much like our past year, the holiday of Rosh Hashanah itself is a complex one with a unique identity. The Torah has two places in which it lists all the holidays of the Jewish year — once in the parashah of Emor and once in the parashah of Re’eh. However, Rosh Hashanah is only mentioned in Emor and is omitted in the portion of Re’eh.

During the High Holiday period, we change the wording of the Amidah prayer to mention God as a “King” rather than the word “Lord” which is used the rest of the year. 

Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, ob’m, expounds that Rosh Hashanah is a time in which we as the Jewish people recognize the duality in our relationship with the Almighty. On the one hand, He is our “Lord” and ruler and we accept this reality. However, simultaneously we reestablish and coronate Hashem as subjects who are not only willing but rejoicing in the opportunity to be in His presence.

We learn from Rosh Hashanah and our prescribed relationship with God that the beauty of life lives in the gray. It is the struggle of relating to Hashem as our father, king and ruler simultaneously that prepares us to learn from a year like the one we just had. At Levine Academy, we pride ourselves on fostering a respect for the diversity that is both our life and our community. May this year bring us much safety, health, growth and a continued deeper appreciation for the complexity of our world and our relationship with God.

Shanah Tovah.

Rabbi Jeremy Litton is director of Jewish Life and Learning at Ann & Nate Levine Academy.

Our prayers are more important than ever 

By Ariel Rackovsky

I vividly recall, several months ago, conversing with a colleague and expressing my concern that we would still be in the throes of the pandemic when the High Holidays would arrive. He thought I was crazy and an alarmist, and while that might be the case in general, I was right this time. We are about to experience a High Holiday season unlike any other in our lifetimes. No doubt we would all prefer to be gathered together as a community and congregational family, celebrating with festive meals with our friends and family, singing familiar tunes in full voice and sharing the Yamim Noraim at Shaare that we all find so meaningful. This is understandable, of course, but in the same way that our public conduct and adherence to safety guidelines must reflect the knowledge that the pandemic still rages, our spiritual conduct should as well. The world is in desperate need of repair and our prayers are more important than ever. Let us not lose the potency of the unprecedented Rosh Hashanah we will experience this year by fantasizing about what we pray will be our Rosh Hashanah experience next year. Let us harness the opportunities presented in this unusual year, so that it is never repeated — even as it is never forgotten. 

Jessica, Shaya, Avremi and Shevy join me in wishing you a Shanah Tovah — a year of happiness, success, joy and good health for all.

Ariel Rackovsky is rabbi of Congregation Shaare Tefilla.

What is God looking for this year, as we take the field for another season

By Moshe Segal

In the prayer book, we refer to Rosh Hashanah as “the birthday of the world.” What does that mean…a non-living entity having a birthday? Is that when God thought about creating the world? When the initial spark of reality came into existence? Is it something else? 

To clarify this question, let’s look at Google. When is Google’s birthday? If you Google it, you’ll discover that even Google doesn’t know! Here’s a history of Google’s birthday celebrations. Since 2006, it’s been on Sept. 27. Prior to that: in 2005 it was Sept. 26, in 2004 it was Sept. 7, and in 2003 it was Sept. 8. The domain was registered on Sept. 15, and they filed for incorporation on Sept. 4! So again, what aspect defines a nonhuman’s birthday?

The answer is clear in the Talmud. Rosh Hashanah celebrates the day man was created. Although physical creation began five days earlier, we celebrate the sixth day, when man was created, as the world’s birthday. Why is that?

To reframe this, let’s think of AT&T Stadium. What date would you choose to celebrate the anniversary of a new field? You wouldn’t choose the day they laid the foundation; rather, you’d celebrate the day it became meaningful: when the first game was played there. The field doesn’t have inherent value. It’s special because games are played there. (Specifically, the Cowboys’ games!) The same is true of the world. The world exists as an arena for mankind to perfect himself and the world around him. It’s our playing field, and we therefore celebrate the day the world became meaningful, when the first human took the field.

What is God looking for this year, as we once again take the field for another season? He wants to hear us say, “God, we’re on your team. I’m going to try to do a little better following your game plan and listening to your coaching.” May we all merit to help build ourselves and the world into a more Godly place, resulting in the ultimate championship, the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our days. 

Moshe Segal is rabbi of DATA of Richardson.

Renew yourself, renew God’s world

By Rabbi David Stern on behalf of the Temple Emanu-El Clergy

These recent months have challenged us with numbing routine: the same walls, the same screens, the same days and nights. And then along comes this sacred season with its stubborn proclamation: Even in the familiar, find something new. Make something new. Dare something new: an act of apology, an act of forgiveness, a move toward reconciliation, a step toward a truer self, a deeper love. 

We have relearned an old truth in this pandemic: We matter to each other. We are not wired for separation, for standing 6 feet apart, for seeing only half of each other’s faces. We are wired for community, for relationship, for covenant. We are fundamentally interconnected as human beings, not just via droplets and aerosols, but by the Holy One in whose image we are created. 

We begin with Selichot’s quiet invitation, and then move to the shofar’s joyous, disruptive call: Renew yourself, renew God’s world. Bring love where love is lacking. Continue to fight the oldest hatred and all hatreds. Bring justice where justice has been demeaned and diminished. With congregational trips postponed, keep Israel centered in our hearts. Lead with patience and compassion. Nourish yourself at the well of Torah and the spring of prayer. Call someone. Call them again tomorrow. The shofar of this new year will soon sound: May our hearts and our lives respond for blessing.

Rabbi David Stern is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El. The Temple Emanu-El Clergy includes Rabbi Debra J. Robbins, Rabbi Kimberly Herzog Cohen, Rabbi Dan Utley, Cantor Vicky Gliken, Cantor Leslie Niren and Rabbi Amy Ross.

Rosh Hashanah: old and new

By Rabbi Ari Sunshine on behalf of Shearith Israel’s Klei Kodesh

“I light the candles, close my eyes, shield my face with my hands and retreat into solitude to find my way to You. Please, a new year, fresh, a clean slate, a true beginning. A year of health and strength, work which brings sustenance and meaning, permission to rest and savor, abundant love, laughter, joy. The same and more for my beloved family, my cherished friends. Cessation of the horrors, the throbbing of war, violence, cruelty. Peace for us, the human family and for our home, Your world. I chant the ancient words, uncover my face, open my eyes. I am ready for a new year.” (T’hinnah for Today, by Malka Aliza bat Leiba, from Mahzor Lev Shalem, p. 30)

Rosh Hashanah is the merger of old and new, ancient and modern. Our tradition regards it as the birthday of the world 5781 years ago, and yet it is also a time when, in effect, each of us is reborn, casting away our old self from 5780 and emerging into 5781 as our new, and hopefully best, self. The words above from Malka Aliza bat Leiba’s beautiful prayer for grace that can be offered before candle lighting on Rosh Hashanah evening are words that could have applied just as easily to any year throughout Jewish or human history as it can to this one we are about to begin. The specifics of the challenging year of 5780 that we are hoping to put behind us in our individual lives and in the world are fresh in our minds, to be sure, but this prayer reminds us that we are linked to a timeless cycle, where old and new, ancient and modern, are essentially the same template, with the difference being only in the details that we fill in. Being a part of this perpetual cycle offers us hope and comfort: Whatever happened in the year that is coming to a close, we will always have the chance to turn the page into a new year and a fresh start. May the upcoming year of 5781 uplift us and bring us all joy, renewal, fulfillment, connection to community, Jewish growth and, most importantly, good health.

L’Shanah Tovah Tikateivu,

Congregation  Shearith Israel’s Klei Kodesh is made up of Rabbi Ari Sunshine, Rabbi Adam Roffman, Rabbi Shira Wallach, Hazzan Itzhak Zhrebker and Avi Mitzner.

Optimism is key

By Howard Wolk

Any way you figure it, this has been a lousy year. Pandemic, personal losses, economic downswing, people out of work. We are happy to usher out the old year.

But what should be our attitude toward the new year? How should we approach the new year of 5781?

Some years ago, the Mayo Clinic did a study which revealed what a person can do to extend his or her life. Not exercise or diet — though those are important.

The study revealed two key components to a person extending his or her span: optimism and positive thinking.

Part of it is that an optimist wants to survive. A pessimist is not looking to survive.

William James, the psychologist, wrote that pessimism is a spiritual sickness.

Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of Adam and Eve. After each of His creations, Hashem declared “Ki tov — It is good.” A pessimist says — No, it is not good.

The Talmud in Tractate Shabbat (31a) teaches us that as part of our final exam, we will be asked: “Tsipita li’yishua — Did you await salvation?” Did you think God would help? Were you an optimist?

The sounds of the shofar are the perfect notes for this question and our answer.

Tekiah! A long, smooth note. This represents when things are going smoothly, when life is going well.

But that note is followed by shevarim-teruah: broken notes which portray our often broken lives. The notes capture our deep feelings of loss of loved ones, difficulties in marriage, pressures of continual Zoom school and meetings.

Then, tekiah. Things improve, things get better.

But, again, tekiah is quickly followed by shevarim-teruah.

And the cycle continues, again and again. 

Upswings in our fortunes, reversals, setbacks. The cycle of life is ongoing.

Tekiah — shevarim-teruah — tekiah.

But, we are ultimately an optimistic people. Hopefulness is part of our national and individual DNA.

Yes, tekiah — shevarim-teruah.

But ultimately, we will end literally and figuratively on a high note.

It will be: tekiah — shevarim-teruah…

And ultimately, tekiah gedolah.

Shanah tovah,ketivah vehatimah tovah.

Howard Wolk is rabbi and chaplain of Jewish Family Service and rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shaare Tefilla.

We have the opportunity

By Shawn Zell

Come the High Holy Days, most, if not all, of us have our physical well-being as our chief concern. Shouldn’t we be concerned over our spiritual well-being as well? As paradoxical as it might sound, the current pandemic affords us three unique opportunities for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur:

We have the opportunity to focus on one specific prayer without being concerned about keeping up with the congregation. The High Holy Day Machzor with its abundance of piyyutim, or poetic prayers, presents us with a spiritual goldmine! Words penned centuries ago waiting to reach deep into our hearts and souls, have suddenly become a real possibility, now that we are devoid of the typical distractions of a synagogue sanctuary.

We have the opportunity to realize how much we have taken for granted. Based on an age-old wordplay that centers on the Hebrew word “shanah” or “year,” it would have been proper for us to ponder whether a new year is also a different year. Come the first of Tishrei 5781 (Sept. 19), the answer is obvious. By virtue of our altered lifestyle, that has left no one unscathed, our outlook cannot help but have changed. Accordingly, our heartfelt requests to Hashem might very well take on a completely different perspective as well.

We have the opportunity to enjoy our solitude. As important and vital as communal prayer is, there is something to be said about having an exclusive with God — particularly on Yom Kippur. This is one year where there will be no one brushing past us as we are seated at services and no one whispering in our ear. 

Our communicating with God can be as intense or as fleeting an experience as we want it to be. 

Come Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, let us take full advantage of the opportunity of focusing on a specific prayer or two; let us take full advantage of the opportunity to realize what is truly important in our lives; let us take full advantage of the opportunity to enjoy an exclusive with the Master of the Universe.

Shawn Zell is rabbi of Congregation Tiferet Israel.

Remembering the essence

By Elana Zelony

There are two names for Rosh Hashanah in the Torah. The first is yom teruah, which means a day of shofar blasts. The second is zichron teruah, which means a memory of shofar blasts. It’s as if the Torah foresaw this pandemic and gave a second name to encapsulate the way we’ll experience the holiday this year. Zichron teruah means remembering the essence of the day even though we can’t fully experience it. Zichron teruah means committing to celebrating in the ways that we can and remaining hopeful that next year will be a yom teruah again.

What essence of the holiday is available to us this year? Often, the focus is on the communal experience. From full dining room tables to full sanctuaries, the power of the holiday is knowing that Jews everywhere experience the celebration together. Perhaps, this year is less about the communal and more about the internal. After all, the isolation we’ve recently suffered does create a lot of time for reflection. Cheshbon hanefesh, which means an accounting of the soul, is also at the core of the High Holidays. Maybe the essence of the holiday this year is about reconciliation, forgiveness, giving ourselves permission for a fresh start, or connection with God. 

This is not the first time in Jewish history that High Holiday celebrations had to be adapted for our people’s well-being. There have been other moments when it was unsafe to gather in person. If our ancestors upheld the tradition by engaging in zichron teruah, the memory and essence of the holiday, then so can we.

Though our experience will be primarily online, it will not be virtual. It has the potential to be very real if we commit to it. The fact that we can’t experience all of our usual traditions may allow us to encounter something new. How appropriate for the holiday that encourages new beginnings. 

May we all be blessed with a sweet New Year.

Elana Zelony is rabbi of Congregation Beth Torah.

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