People are saying they're tired of this year. Well, good news, we get to start a New Year right now: the Jewish New Year, that is, Rosh Hashanah!
Every year at this time I have centered my teachings around a theme for the Days of Awe. And this year, my theme is based on a quote from Rahm Emanuel, "“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. I mean, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” We aren't happy about the multiple crises we are facing right now, but crisis can mean opportunity. Resilience can be, to paraphrase my teacher Reb Zalman, turning an emergency into an opportunity for something new and better to emerge.
On Rosh Hashanah, my talks will be about ways that we can apply this wisdom to our personal lives. On Friday night I'll look at how Judaism fosters personal resilience. On Shabbat morning, I'll dive deeper into theology. Whether you are traditional, humanistic, or mystical/spiritual in your religious outlook, I hope there will be something for you. And on Sunday morning, our usual time for study will center on the teachings of Dr. Viktor Frankl, who survived the Holocaust and founded the school of Logotherapy, based on the human search for meaning in suffering.
On Yom Kippur, our learning will broaden and focus on a more national scale. During Kol Nidrei, I'll explore why we shouldn't just "go back to normal, " but need to build a better society. On Yom Kippur morning we hear from members who give us concrete ways to do good for others. And on Yom Kippur afternoon, our traditional Eleh Ezkerah (martyrology) will have a special focus on Black Lives lost to racism and intolerance, and I will lead a discussion on how Jews can practice anti-racism.
If all this sounds very serious, there will also be lots of enjoyable moments: seeing one another's faces, slideshows, special musical moments including special guests. There will also be family friendly times with songs and stories, particularly at the start of the Friday night service and the start of the morning services on the second day (Sunday) of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur morning. So be sure to come on time with the kids! Plus a separate children's service is being planned on Yom Kippur.
Several in-person outdoor, socially distanced opportunities are being offered over the season, so check your emails from Marcy. And thanks to Lenora Sealey and Rachel Friedman and Emma Reisman, we have some fantastic goodie bags; be sure to contact Marcy to get yours.
By the way, services and my sermons will be much shorter (kind of "sermonettes"), due to the Zoom format. I hope no one complains :-). We will also make the best use of the medium by having opportunities for chatting, breakout rooms, and some media, even as we will be zooming in real time so you can see friends and be in the moments together.
I want to bless all of us to find abundant meaning and goodness, even in challenging times. And as the traditional prayer for the Eve of Rosh Hashanah goes:
Let the Old Year and its curses end; Let the New Year and its blessings begin!
L'shanah Tovah Tikateyvu ve-Tehateymu
May all of us be inscribed and sealed, and write a book of Life together, for a Good and Sweet Year, 5781!
Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan
Former PCS Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan shares her thoughts (and some original photos) and invites your comments.