These High Holydays will be different from any High Holydays we’ve ever had before.
The Board, at its most recent meeting, and based on a recommendation from the Temple’s Covid-19 Task Force, has determined that we will celebrate the High Holydays on-line this year.
After thoughtful and sometimes painful and difficult deliberation and discussion, the Task Force and then the Board came to this recommendation and decision, based primarily on the Jewish value of pikuach nefesh – the saving of a life. According to halacha – Jewish law, this value supersedes all others, even the laws of Shabbat. In other words, one is permitted to break the laws governing the observance of Shabbat in order to save a life.
Given the demographics of our community and the fact that so much is still unknown about Covid-19 and all the ways in which it can spread, the Board decided that for us to gather in person for the High Holydays this year was simply too potentially dangerous a proposition and so, we will see each other and celebrate together over Zoom this year.
This may evoke feelings of loss, sadness, and grief in many of us, but it also provides us with opportunities for great creativity, opportunities to try new things, to celebrate a little differently, to invite us to experience the High Holydays in a novel way this year.
Thank you to all the Temple members who participated in the sessions we offered a few weeks ago for you to express what for you is meaningful about the High Holydays. Your participation was certainly helpful to me in my planning process for our High Holydays this year. I hope that it was a good experience for you also.
Some of what we experience at Temple will not be able to be translated to the Zoom platform, but other modes of exploring this time in our Jewish calendar will become apparent.
What do I mean? I’m glad you asked!
Our tradition teaches that the Jewish home is a mikdash me’at – a small sanctuary. Many of the rituals that we now carry out in the Temple were originally home observances – lighting Shabbat or High Holyday candles, the kiddush, the hamotzi, to name a few.
This year, we have the opportunity to experiment with transforming our home into a mikdash me’at – small sanctuary. This is exciting and it means that more of the responsibility for creating a sacred environment will rest with you, so you get to choose and to bring into existence what that means for you.
Think of ways in which we can be festive for each other, to elevate this time for each other, and to create sacred space in our homes. Doing this will make the Holydays special for all of us who are participating, and for all of those who choose to join us for them.
I invite you to decorate your space as you would have done or try something new; dress accordingly; perhaps move your computer from where you usually Zoom to a special place in your home cleared of clutter, dedicated to observing the Yamim haNora’im – the days of awe – the High Holydays.
This year, thanks to Zoom, we will be able to utilize audio, video, and technology in ways that have not been available to us in the past. This will also afford us opportunities to collaborate and share during our High Holydays in ways that haven’t been possible in the past.
There will be more information coming your way, so visit this space often.
Rabbi Karen Companez, together with Barbara Brook, Temple President