Dear WJC Family,
This will be my last personal Shabbat message for a few weeks but don’t worry—with Rosh HaShanah starting a week from tonight, you will be receiving plenty of information from us about logistics, ways to make the holidays more meaningful, and New Years greetings. I will start writing these messages again around Sukkot after the Ten Day Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur. If you’d like a little face time with me before then, come to my third class on the High Holiday liturgy this on Thursday and/or tune in early for Shabbat morning services—I am teaching live on the stream from 8:30-9:00am and at 9:00am, I daven the Introductory (Pesukei D’Zimra) and Morning (Shacharit) alone in the sanctuary. It doesn’t count as a minyan, but it is a nice way to start services with familiar prayers and tunes.
This Shabbat morning we will read a double Torah portion Nitzavim-Vayelech. Together they make for an oxymoronic parsha title. Nitzavim means to stand, Vayelech means to go. Together they make the sentence, “You stand together today, and will go” (In context veyelech means, “and he went,” and is referring to Moses, so I am admittedly being a bit liberal with my translation here.) At first, this doesn’t seem to make sense—either we are standing or we are going, how can we be doing both? The answer is that as a community, we only truly make progress when we stand together. In other words, the title of this double portion means, “When we stand together, we will move forward.”
It is an appropriate message for this moment as we celebrate the Shabbat before the Rosh HaShanah. The High Holidays are the time that we nitzavim, stand together as a community ready to move forward into the New Year. Ironically, this year we cannot stand together physically as we have in the past, and yet never have we needed to be more united as a congregation and a Jewish community as we face these unpredictable and unprecedented times. That’s why we have created the theme for the High Holidays 5781—Connected by the Call. Just as we can be united in hearing the sound of the shofar even when we cannot see each other, we can stand together on these most holy days even when we cannot be in the same room. We will stand together wherever we are in prayer, in faith, and in commitment to our shared Jewish values. This High Holidays, there are a lot of ways to “stand together” so that we can face the future successfully, supporting each other and supporting our WJC community.
This Saturday night, we will have a unique opportunity to stand together as a greater area Conservative Community as we join with Shaare Tikveh, Temple Israel Center, and Beth El Synagogue Center for a virtual Selichot program and services. Selichot is held on the Saturday night prior to Rosh HaShanah and is a beautiful service to help us focus on the holidays and the tasks of reflection, repentance, and renewal that they entail. The program will begin with an opportunity to learn with various area rabbis, including me, in break-out rooms. Then the cantors of the synagogues will lead us in a beautiful Selichot service. Please register in advance by clicking here and we’ll see you on Saturday night.
Another way to stand together is to support the Center with a Kol Nidre pledge. We are hoping that, despite the difficult times, folks will give something to the campaign, even if it is less than in the past or is a smaller amount than you would like to be able to give—we can stand together in our support of the future of WJC. Please click here to make a donation.
Also, we will stand together in prayer even if you won’t be joining us in the sanctuary. Starting this Sunday, you can pick up your High Holiday Bag at the shul including the mahzor prayer books. This in-person visit to the shul building will also be a rare opportunity for us to stand together in Tikkun Olam. When you come, please bring a food donation for Feeding Westchester. See the list of items we are collecting here.
These High Holidays, b’ezrat HaShem (with the help of God,) we will stand together and move forward into a better future. The truth is that the Jews are experts at feeling united even when we have been scattered throughout the world. This year let’s harness that tradition as never before and stand connected wherever we are for these holidays—in our sanctuary, in our homes, or wherever we may be.
Before that, this Shabbat, we will have our virtual Kabbalat Shabbat service at 6:00pm Friday and our usual Saturday morning schedule as I mentioned above. To pre-print the source sheet for my lesson at 8:30 entitled “Who Makes Jewish Law? God or Rabbis or You?” click here. Also, Saturday we will be celebrating a bar mitzvah, and as every simcha is a little sweeter these days, I hope you’ll join us to celebrate on the live-stream. Havdalah will be part of the Selichot program on Saturday night.
See you in shul or online,