We often call the Days from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the "High Holy Days," or the "High Holidays." Their original name is Yamim Noraim, or "Days of Awe." I used to think that meant they were days that evoke fear and trembling, but now I think that it means they are 10 days to really tune in to the awesomeness of life.
I loved seeing so many from our community and beyond on Rosh Hashanah. It was also a special family time for us as we welcomed a new grandson. What a blessing to celebrate with our family and our community at the same time!
Today, as I walked in the park to reconnect with my body and nature after two days of prayer in the synagogue, I found the themes of the holidays echoed in nature. I thought of the way our deeds ripple and touch others, and saw the round ripples created by raindrops in the lake (as my photo header on this post).
I thought how we are all connected in the web or mandala of life, and saw raindrops adorning a spider's web:
And just as I was hearing Cantor Abbe's gorgeous melodies of Unetaneh Tokef running through my thoughts, with the image of how we are like sheep to a heavenly shepherd, I saw that sheep had returned to the meadow!
If you would like to spend some time in nature with me, I'll be leading a Shabbat walk at Rockefeller State Park Preserve on Friday, Sept. 14, from 6-7pm. If there is interest I hope to keep enhancing our outdoor spiritual activities as part of my project with Rabbis Without Borders.
A highlight of the Holidays for me is just to to immerse in the holiday music from our wonderful holiday Cantor, Hazan Abbe Lyons, and our other musicians, choir, and Torah chanters. The melodies are almost all special ones just for this season. Prayer is about both the content and themes but also the deep emotions that are evoked. Especially on Tuesday, which was the anniversary of 9/11, I felt the meaning of these days very deeply. When I chanted "Avinu Malkenu, act for those who went through fire and water for your sake," I felt the words in my body, like it was almost hard to stay standing. On the other hand, when we did the prostrations during the Great Aleynu, it felt transcendent and expansive, almost an out-of-body experience.
Also: I truly enjoyed our Torah study and discussion on Tuesday about the sources of the two sayings that Rabb Simcha Bunim kept in his pocket. It was cool seeing everyone engrossed in dialogue and then hearing what you had to share. I learned so much from your insights! As Bruce Gutenplan noted, when you see the sayings in their original context, it almost reverses the meanings, and it certainly adds a lot of depth to the way that we understand them. You can find the source sheet here.
What is meaningful or emotional for you during this season? I would love to hear from you in the comments (or in person!).
Looking forward to seeing many of you on Shabbat and Yom Kippur.
Former PCS Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan shares her thoughts (and some original photos) and invites your comments.