Making the Most of Your At Home Experience

This is probably the first time you are attending holiday services by live stream. While it will certainly feel different, it can still be meaningful. A little extra effort at home will create an atmosphere conducive to a spiritual experience. We hope you will give it a chance.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Be prepared Have you mahzor, kippah, and talit ready to go. If you haven’t picked up a mahzor from WJC yet, now’s the time. If you cannot get to WJC for any reason, we will help arrange to get you a mahzor. Just let Rabbi Arnowitz know, the sooner the better.
  2. Create a small sanctuary Sitting at the desk where you work can make it difficult to get into a spiritual mindset. If possible, set up your computer or tablet in a dedicated space without distractions. Display our live stream on the biggest screen or monitor you have and sit some distance away from it to minimize the temptation to browse the rest of the internet. The stream will be live before the onset of the holiday if you wish to be fully prepared before the holiday begins.
  3. If you must use your regular workspace, try to put away the most work-specific items and beautify the space with a cloth or flowers. If you have Jewish books or Judaic objects in the house, put them nearby to inspire the right feel. You can also display photos of family and friends you are bringing to mind at the turn of the year.
  4. Outside of a synagogue, we face east towards Jerusalem when at prayer. Figure out now which way is east in your home and set yourself up to face that way if possible, at least when standing. As you do so, imagine your prayers joining all the other Jewish prayers directed towards Jerusalem on these holy days. Put up a special object or sign to designate the eastern wall.
  5. Dress for synagogue Some of you may be thinking, “Are you kidding? Not having to dress up is the one advantage of not going to shul in-person.” I know, I know. But dressing for shul helps us feel like we are in shul. It also helps us make the holiday special, which is even more important when it feels like the days are blending together. So dust off those dress clothes and give yourself the best chance to succeed in creating a spiritual feel.
  6. Practice makes perfect The first time you do anything it is a little strange. Join us for as many services as possible and don’t give up. It may feel odd at first, but persevering through the discomfort will ultimately help you feel more connected.
  7. Participate! If you are able, stand during the standing parts. Sing during the singing parts. Singing is a discouraged activity in-person, but at home, you can sing as loudly as you want with no one there to judge you (well, maybe your family, but that’s between you guys). If you want to feel like you are with the folks in the synagogue, then do the things they are doing! There will be a short break in the middle of the service to allow those arriving to find their seats–you can use that time to have a snack, step outside or do anything else to refresh yourself.
  8. Prep the kids If you have children at home, make sure they have activities to occupy them while you are “in shul.” Hopefully, you got a WJC family bag full of activities and games for them to do and have cued up the many family-oriented videos that we’ve prepared. Whatever it is, make sure they are occupied with something they enjoy so that you can participate fully in the service.
  9. Work to make meaning A lot of your experience of these High Holidays will result from how you approach them. Look for the things you can tap into that feel similar to years past even as you are trying new things for this new environment. I encourage you to participate in some of our myriad learning and centering programs leading up to and during the High Holidays, which are designed to add to our experience and guide us towards making meaning.

We hope that following this advice will help you experience gathering, renewal, and return during this High Holiday season.

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