It’s been a hard summer. A season that started out with such promise as COVID-19 restrictions fell away wound up being filled with troubling developments.
There was the tragedy of America’s chaotic exit from Afghanistan. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires have been wreaking havoc around the country and world. It seems as if when one catastrophe ends, another begins. And Americans remain at one another’s throats over a host of issues.
The delta variant put concerns about COVID-19 back at the forefront as cases, hospitalizations and deaths started increasing again just when it seemed the coronavirus was on its way out.
The continued threat of COVID-19 once again is complicating Jewish communities’ efforts to celebrate their holiest days of the year, which commence Monday at sundown with the start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.
The holiday ushers in a 10-day period of reflection and repentance that culminates with the day of atonement known as Yom Kippur.
With so much trouble on people’s minds, the opportunity for spiritual renewal and the notion of a fresh start is even more welcome than usual.
But the pandemic is still here, and traditionally these are the most well-attended services of the year, with packed sanctuaries.
A year ago many congregations got creative to ensure that people were able to meet their religious obligations and celebrate many of the cherished traditions that come with this time of year.
Some avoided in-person services, instead streaming them via YouTube or in a more collaborative manner using programs such as Zoom.
Many held all or parts of their services outdoors.
With less stringent restrictions in effect this year, there will be more in-person services than there were a year ago, though masks and distancing will be required.
Some synagogues will bring back last year’s experiment of holding drive-in services so more people can be there for key moments such as the sounding of the shofar, blasts from a ram’s horn that Jews are commanded to hear on Rosh Hashana. Many will continue to stream services for people who would prefer to worship from home or need to do so..
The bottom line is that once again, things may not be exactly the same as they usually are. That can be tough to absorb, considering that the traditions associated with these holidays have been observed for many generations. That’s a big part of what gives these holidays their spiritual power.
The key is to focus on one of the central themes of the High Holidays, which involves taking inventory of one’s actions over the past year and coming away with a clean slate, determined to do better in the coming year. It means sincere repentance before God and the people we may have wronged. These are sound practices that people of all backgrounds and belief systems should consider adopting.
Considering the way things have been going lately in our society, a lot of us would benefit from taking the opportunity to seek healing in our interpersonal relationships. It’s also helpful to be reminded that none of us is perfect and there’s always room for people to grow.
We hope the Jews in our communities are able to enjoy any steps toward normalcy in their upcoming observances. To the extent that these aren’t exactly the holidays of cherished memory, remember that approaching tough situations with a positive attitude is the very sort of thing people pray to attain as they seek self-improvement during these holidays. Focusing on what’s changed is counterproductive. And we’re already seeing signs that some of the innovations put into effect a year ago could become traditions themselves.
For everyone’s sake, we pray that the health crisis we’ve endured for far too long is a thing of the past when Rosh Hashana comes around again next year.
We wish the Jewish community a happy, healthy 5782 filled with better times for them and their neighbors of all faiths and beliefs, here and around the world.
Source: Berkshire mont