“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, the man who attains understanding.”…”She is a tree of life to them that grasp her, and all who hold onto her are happy” (Proverbs 3:13,18)
“Help us turn to You, and we shall return. Renew our lives as in days of old.” (Lamentations 5:21).
Message from Rav Julius
Regarding the Rosh Hashanah Services
Yes, the High Holy Days will be different this year.
Besides the obvious reality that we will not see each other in the flesh, there is also the absence of the Sanctuary which has served as the physical home for these services these last forty years. And there is also an artificial level of impatience that is built into the virtual platform we are using that needs to be respected.
And after a seven-year absence, we will be joined by Cantor Linda Rich-Freed, virtually from Los Angeles.
Against this backdrop, we enter this unknown roadmap together, and for the first time acknowledge that we don’t have a clue as to how this year’s experience will turn out. And even those who are ZOOM veterans, and even those who have participated in a ZOOM Shabbat prayer service, cannot say they are prepared for a High Holy Day ZOOM experience, replete with its life-changing opportunities.
And that is the buzzword for this year’s services: Opportunity. How do we see the limitations that the virus has imposed as occasions for us to break the chains of the past that do not serve our purposes this year.
So, while I cannot tell you how the prayer service experience will be for you, let me share some thoughts about the individual services, and particularly, some of the ideas that guided us as we put this weekend’s services together.
Some general observations:
Especially when we enter Cantor Linda’s rendition of the Mussaf service each day — but which differ significantly between the two days, you will see that we have taken the Amidah apart so that you are able to visualize its individual parts and gain a better appreciation of their separate structures and meanings. Rather than trying to relate to this overwhelming Amidah that often seems to have no end, we invite you to focus on the individual components. And with thepower of controlling your device, you decide whether to continue with us on our journey to the next prayer; or stay where you are with the current prayer and simply shut off the audio on your device.
And when you are done, you can re-join us. Sort of like a guided visualization, but you control all the visualization stimuli.
You see, it is all about recognizing the opportunities.
And now some guidance as to how the individual prayer services will look like and again, all of them will be on the ZOOM platform. All members of the Synagogue who receive the VOICE by email will receive the ZOOM invitation. If you do not receive the VOICE by email and wish to receive the ZOOM invitation, you need to provide us with an email address before Friday night to which we can send the invitation.
And while we would like you to come on time and stay for the duration as the service was put together as a ‘whole’, we want to remind you that you are welcome to come and go as you please.
And now some observations of the separate prayer services:
Friday night, 6:00 pm. Erev Rosh Hashanah. We will be able to conduct the entire service in the way it is conducted traditionally within the usual time frame of about 45 minutes. This service is the only one in which you will have a silent Amidah or alternative meditation opportunity. (Of course, you are welcome to daven the other silent Amidot any time you like throughout the holiday as you all have received Machzorim.) Other features of this service that might appeal to you are the Kiddush and apples dipped into honey rituals that we can share across the virtual sky.
Shabbat morning, 10:00 am. This service will be broken into two parts. Part I will include the traditional Torah service, modified Torah reading, Haftarah chant, and Rabbi’s sermon. This should be a little more than an hour. Then, after an approximate 10-15 minute break, Cantor Linda will lead us in Mussaf which should be approximately an hour to 75 minutes.
Sunday morning, 10:00 am. As in the past few years, we turn the service structure around by having a very short Shacharit service led by Cantor Linda, followed by the first Shofar service of the morning — there is another one embedded within the Mussaf Amidah. Then we will observe the ritual of the Haftarah chant as a standalone experience in the way it was originally designed, and without a Torah reading.
Following a short break, Cantor Linda will take us on another journey through the Mussaf, emphasizing parts that were not included in the First Day’s service.
Following another short break to be decided by those who wish to remain, we will have “Torah study” on the topic of this morning’s Torah reading: the Akeidah, of the binding of Isaac. I cannot predict the time for Torah study as it tends to have a life of its own. But for those who join us, you are welcome to leave whenever it ceases to keep your attention.
Anyway, that’s it from our end. Now, let’s focus on what you can do on your end.
First, not only synagogues, but study houses and even private homes are called a mikdash me’at, a small temple, according to the rabbis of Talmud. God dwells in the holy spaces we create. So, let me give you some tips to help you transform your home into a sacred place of holiness. Consider them if they are helpful for you and your family in any way; but please know there is no Halakhic right or wrong way to be present for the virtual High Holy Days.
Perhaps as a guiding light you invoke the spirit of the Hineni prayer, “Here I am,” that Cantor Linda will so beautifully share on the First Morning. She will express her humility and question her ability to deliver the awesome responsibility of the Congregation’s prayers.
But for us, it is not just our call for our prayers to be heard. This year we say “Here I Am” as a commitment. Even though we are not together physically, we commit to being present for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our greater community. There has never been a more important time to do so.
And we also know that coming to the synagogue is not just about the physical setting—it is about the people, sense of history, prayer and spirituality, and the many things that make our community unique. This year, the Hebrew word Hineni — I am here, takes on new meaning.
So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. Where in your home are you going to designate as the ‘prayer space’? Or more practically, where does your computer, phone or other device best sit and fit? Or maybe it will be outside? — Once again, see the opportunities for this year’s experience that far exceed those of the past.
But as you make your venue selection, consider whether you might be able to also include a positioning that faces Jerusalem (if you’re in Eastern CT – east; but maybe you’re not in Eastern CT).
Also, perhaps this room can include items that make it feel ‘holy’. For example, this year Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat. So, in addition to any Rosh Hashanah or High Holy Day items, decorate the room with Shabbat candles or other Shabbat items, and have candles lit during the Friday night Service (and move them into your dining area following). Maybe even consider bringing out Sukkah decorations from the attic. (And let’s talk about whether you want to build a sukkah this year! — there is still time, and maybe you’ve got more time this year than the past.)
And if it’s your practice to wear a tallit for the daytime services, or a kippa – by all means don them in your home, and with the requisite blessing for the tallit that you can find on the top of page 80 of your Machzorim.
And if it’s your practice to dress up for the holidays do so! While I will not encourage anybody to engage in any risky behavior to beautify themselves, make the days special for you.
And while you are in the room, leave all other devices and distractions in other rooms. Maybe you do need to be looking at your messages during the morning, but make a trip to the device room to do it — don’t bring the tum-ah of the deviceinto your mini-sanctuary.
We know that the High Holy Day season will be awfully hard for some, as it is a reminder that things are anything but normal. We know this year there will probably be no large dinners with families; and for sure, no packed and buzzing sanctuary, no New Year’s hugs, and handshakes.
But we have faith that together despite the distance, we can still bring meaning, purpose, and connection to our High Holy Day Season! And as you journey with us, Cantor Linda and I invite you to write down any questions, comments, or thoughts that arise over the weekend that you would like to discuss with us, and if there is interest, we can schedule a discussion session or other way of reviewing it.
On behalf of Ellen and myself, we wish all of you Shabbat Shalom and a Happy, Healthy and Sweet New Year, L’Shana Tovah.
Rav Julius Rabinowitz
Beth Jacob High Holy Day
Service Schedule 5781/2020
(all services on the ZOOM platform)
Friday night, September 18, 6:00 pm, Rosh Hashanah first night (evening service)
Saturday morning, September 19, 10:00 am, Rosh Hashanah first day
(traditional-inspired service, commencing with the Torah service)
Sunday morning, September 20, 10:00 am, Rosh Hashanah second day
(discussion, alternative-inspired service; Shofar service)
Tashlikh (under discussion)
Sunday night, September 27, 6:15 pm, Erev Yom Kippur (including Kol Nidrei)
Monday morning, September 28, 10:00 am, Yom Kippur day service (including Yizkor)
Yom Kippur, Monday afternoon, September 28, 2:30 pm discussion led by Rav Julius
Yom Kippur, Monday evening, September 28, 5:45 pm, Jonah Haftarah and talk, led by Faye Ringel
Yom Kippur, Monday evening, September 28, 6:15 pm, Ne’ilah, Ma-ariv
Break-fast (approximately) 7:15 pm
This Week At Beth Jacob
Friday, September 18th – Kabbalat Shabbat
Saturday, September 19th - Shabbat Morning Torah Study
Friday Night/Kabbalat Shabbat
This week we will begin our service at 6:00 pm, of approximately one-hour length. There will be a further announcement regarding this service later this week. As in the past, all members of the Synagogue will be invited with a ZOOM invitation this Friday, and a copy of the Siddur.
Shabbat Morning Torah Study
A ZOOM invitation and a copy of the materials being studied, will be circulated to all who have expressed interest in the past. If you would like to be added to the list, please contact Rav Julius at firstname.lastname@example.org or text him at (914) 380-0532. We begin at about 10:00 am, and generally run until about 11:30, but anyone can leave whenever they want to.
All events happening at Beth Jacob this week are on the ZOOM platform.
Generally, the ZOOM room ‘opens’ 15 minutes before an event begins, and this time is usually set aside as the first ‘shmooze’ period. If you have trouble connecting to a ZOOM meeting, please call Rav Julius at (914) 380-0532 (including ‘events’ on Shabbat). And generally, room reservations continue for a reasonable period beyond the projected closing time (the second ‘shmooze’ period).
If any of you have been reluctant to participate in the ZOOM offerings because you think that it might be too challenging for you to participate, please speak with Rav Julius. He can demonstrate the ease with which this technology can be used.
And whether the ZOOM experience can work for you — only you can determine that.
Synagogue Activity Amidst COVID-19 Concerns