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High Holy Days at Home 2020

08/07/2020 10:47:58 AM


Nine years ago I spent Yom Kippur at home.  I was a new mom. Adam just 10 months old.  And I was sick.  Lost my voice so much I didn’t even have the option of somehow powering through.  I remember Stuart Schillinger, President at the time, saying it was like losing the star quarterback on the eve of the Superbowl.  And I also remember him saying, well, Yom Kippur will happen whether or not you are there on the bima.  It’s bigger than that. 

And it was!  (And it went better than my ego would like to admit, as a team of leaders stepped up on that sacred day so I could stay home healing.)  

I remember my grief, sitting on the floor of my living room, nursing my baby, wrapped in a tallit, heart broken not to be with my community, but somehow still feeling them with me, singing to me through the words on the pages of my Machzor.  And not just my Or Shalom community, the community of souls who had written and sung and studied those words through every human circumstance Jews have known through our centuries of search and practice.  

I was alone and yet not alone.  

It was one of the most memorable Yom Kippur days I have ever experienced.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was learning that day some of the most important spiritual lessons I needed.  About surrender.  About love.  About the value of community and practice.  About vulnerability and its implications.

And I think this year is going to be like that for all of us.

Memorable.  Difficult. Full of grief and broken-heartedness.  And in its peculiarity, uniquely positioned to impact us all more deeply than any other Yom Kippur in our lifetimes.

We cannot “save” the High Holy Day services from covid-19.  We do not have the power to ensure that a gathering in person would be safe.  And so we surrender, yielding to what is beyond our control.  

As you have either heard or guessed, Or Shalom, like almost every other community in our area, will be choosing life, protecting health, and holding our High Holy Day services online this year.  

Then again, maybe the call is not to “save” anything of what has been.  

This year does not call us to resist the change around us or to preserve some nostalgic version of the familiar past.  

2020 calls us instead to “save” the future.  To use this unchosen stillness to see more clearly who we are and what we are doing and where our choices lie.  This year, while layers of disruption interrupt our personal and collective routines, we can lift the gaze to see possibilities, dark and radiant, of what we might live into.  

Transformation is upon us.  

Will we move through it with skill and wisdom, or with fear? Will we cling to what has been? Will we turn toward what is holy?

These are the questions of the High Holy Day season 2020.  They are questions that will accompany us through Elul, the month leading up to the Holy Days, and all the way through Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.  

Not even a pandemic can take away the flow of sacred time around us.  Not even a pandemic can break the bonds of friendship, tradition and community which are about so much more than gathering in a physical building.  We will greet these sacred days alone and together, grieving and discovering, online, in our homes, and in the natural world.  And it will be powerful.

Stay tuned to hear about the opportunities Or Shalom is creating to learn, sing, connect and search in solitude and with one another as we move through this sacred and awesome time.  

If you would take a few minutes to give us some feedback, please fill out this SHORT survey that we will use to guide us as we create services and other offerings in this season.  Thank you in advance for taking the time to tell us about your experience and ideas.  

I send my blessing for strength and health, patience and peace, hope and vision.  

L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu, may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of positive transformation.


Rabbi Katie 


Mon, August 8 2022 11 Av 5782