Dear WJC Family,
In Moshe’s great final speech to the Israelite people, he doesn’t sugarcoat the past. In fact, he often brings up those hard times to remind the Israelites and make sure they’ve learned from the experience. In our Parsha this week, Ekev, Moshe recounts the incident of the Golden Calf. It is clear that in this moment we came very close to losing it all – God’s favor, our freedom, the future (now past) of the Jewish people. But now, forty years later, Moshe tells the story as a lesson – it was a harrowing event that nearly turned life upside down and unrecognizable, but then something new came out of it. Moshe, or God really, introduces a whole system of repentance and reconciliation to accommodate the new reality. These rituals and lessons become ingrained in the community (ideas we still follow today as the High Holidays approach) and they are ready to move on to the original purpose, entering the land of Israel.
This model of dealing with traumatic events, gaining insight from them, and then returning to our purpose with a new perspective is something that speaks to me as the leadership of WJC navigates our way to the “new normal.” In March 2020 when the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, took hold it froze society and took the lives of so many. The danger was persistent and great and for a long time there was no chance of any number of people gathering in person. For the safety of our community and for the primacy of our spirit, there was no doubt that special accommodations needed to be made regarding minyan and kaddish. The question is when to end those accommodations.
With the emergence of vaccines and treatments and a steep decline in the mortal danger of the illness, it seems that the emergency phase of Covid-19 has passed. The question remains how do we move forward in the new reality that includes COVID-19. Starting on Tuesday September 6, the day after Labor Day, we will begin taking some of those steps. Of course, whatever changes we make, we understand that people have varying risk factors and risk tolerances and our intention is to continue to accommodate all of those as best as we can. Like Moshe in our parsha, we are taking the learnings of this time and incorporating them into our future. At the same time, it is important to have integrity in our approach to Jewish practice and return to the standards that have always been a defining part of WJC.
Therefore, we will be reinstituting evening minyan in-person in the chapel every weekday night at 7:00pm. Like the current weekday morning minyan, these in-person services will also be available virtually at the same Zoom link we’ve been using, but going forward we will need a minyan, at least ten people over the age of bar or bat mitzvah, to be present in-person for the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish. When there is not a minyan present at a service, we will go back to our former custom of reading the alternative prayer for mourners.
This means we need your help with a couple of things:
1) While there are enough people in the congregation to expect a minyan is possible on any given morning or evening, that does not necessarily mean we will get one. Can you commit to coming one morning or one evening every week? Maybe every once in a while? Whatever you can do would be a huge help. It often helps if there is a captain for one evening – might you be willing to take responsibility to rally the troops for one service? If you are not so familiar with weekday services, let me know and I am happy to answer any questions.
2) If you want to come to say kaddish on a given day, please bring friends. We always have some people for a minyan, but by asking 4-6 of your friends and family to come with you, you can insure the opportunity to say the actual Mourner’s Kaddish prayer.
If you have any questions about the reasoning or timing for reverting to the traditional policies, of course I would be happy to talk it through with you. In the meantime, summer Shabbat continues to be beautiful thanks to our coordinator Cindy Heller, our amazing line-up of lay volunteer leaders and our ongoing youth services. I hope I see you in shul this Shabbat and we get to catch up after a lovely (I hope) summer.
See you in shul,