Shabbat Shalom ~ Shoftim

Dear WJC Family,

Chodesh Tov! Happy Elul. The Jewish month of Elul, which begins today, starts the month-long count up (we don’t count down) to Rosh Hashanah. As you may have noticed, you are receiving an awful lot of communication from me lately. The summer is winding down and we are preparing for a holiday season like none that we’ve experienced before, so there is a lot to tell you! You will be receiving a letter from me very soon about the Kol Nidre Appeal, which like everything else this year, will be done differently from the past. I wanted to take this opportunity to address the fact that many of us will be participating in High Holiday services via live stream on WJC’s website rather than in person.

One thing I have noticed throughout this difficult period is that virtual events are generally better than we think they’ll be.  We’ve seen it here at events like the Gala honoring Rabbi Jef and Marla Segelman and a number of services and programs, as well as more globally with family gatherings, school graduations, and more. With regard to our High Holiday plans, I find this fact encouraging and I am optimistic that we will be able to have a truly meaningful, if definitely different, High Holiday season this year.

I wanted to share a few tips to make participating in services from home more meaningful:

  1. 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 iPad in a dedicated space without distractions. Or, if you are using 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.
  2. Practice with us on Shabbat The first time you do anything it is a little strange. Join us for Saturday morning services this week and for the weeks leading up to the High Holidays to practice using this new way of connecting. It may feel difficult to start, but people have told me that if you stick with it, it gets easier and more connective. So, give it a try by streaming Saturday morning at The stream will start around 5:00pm this afternoon, so if you want to log in before Shabbat starts, you can, and just leave the stream running until services start – I will daven Shacharit solo at 9:00am and the main service with a minyan begins at 10:00am.
  3. Work to make meaning A lot of your experience of these High Holidays will be up to how you approach them. Part of it is approaching them positively, looking for the things you can tap into that feel similar to years past and 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. These programs are designed to add to our experience and guide us towards making meaning.

Different does not necessarily imply less meaningful. On Passover, for example, though I wasn’t able to have the seder the way I like and have grown accustomed to, the evening had new meaning. I never felt more connected to the Israelite slaves who cowered in their homes 3500 years ago while a mysterious plague passed among the homes of the Egyptians. I do not yet know what the parallel will be for that on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, but I know there is undiscovered meaning waiting to be accessed. Let’s do our best to allow that to happen by making this effort together.

I hope you will join us for Shabbat services this week. Kabbalat Shabbat will be on Zoom led by Rabbi Dalton and I will be delivering the drasha called, “Sorcery, Shabbat and the World to Come.” Saturday morning I will start davening the preliminary and morning services alone in the sanctuary from 9:00-9:45. At 10:00am, we will start with a minyan including the Torah service. Service highlight for me: Tami and I will be taking an aliyah to the Torah in honor of our 21st wedding anniversary which is this Shabbat–Happy anniversary Tam!

See you in shul or online,

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