Rabbi's Message - August 31, 2021
"The time is now. We’ve gathered ’round. So bring all your gifts and bring all your burdens with you.
No need to hide. Arms open wide. We gather as One. To make a Makom Kadosh (a holy place).
We come to tell. We come to hear. We come to teach. We come to learn. We come to grow. And so we say.
The time is now. Sing to the One. God’s presence is here, Shechina. You will dwell among us.
We’ll make this space a Holy Place, so separate, so whole. Rejoice every soul who enters here."
— Debbie Friedman z”l and Tamara R. Cohen
We will sing these beautiful lyrics for the first time in two years when we gather on Monday night. They are words of welcome, inviting us to bring our whole selves into our sacred space and embrace the holiness of this time together. Last year, we excluded this song from our online services. This year we’ll reinstate the liturgy to what it was before the pandemic. We pray that coming back together will offer us a renewed sense of normalcy and gratitude.
I must acknowledge, however, that we welcome 5782 during another period of profound change. Even as we return to the Great Hall, a sense of normalcy will be hard to find. Not only will it feel different physically, as we’ll be smaller in number and further apart, but emotionally it will feel different. So much has changed in the world since we last met, including ourselves. How will we find grounding when the sea of normalcy is so turbulent?
Things will change and our goals will change, but our Jewish values will remain steadfast. We must look to the elements of our holiday that are eternal. Like the generations who came before us, whether we are at home or together, we must find the space and time to do the work of teshuvah: reflect on the past year, look deep within our souls, engage in repentance, commit to the path forward. Though we still yearn for the past; we must appreciate what we have now, even if it isn’t the normalcy we crave.
Our gratitude is what keeps us going. Can we commit to feeling grateful this year? Grateful for our loved ones. Grateful for our health. Grateful for our congregation. Traditionally, we are expected to recite 100 blessings a day. Each blessing is a recognition of God’s goodness and appreciation for our bounty. It is important to say “thank you,” especially when it would be easy to lose sight of those blessings, especially mixed blessings.
Rabbi Elyse Goldstein recently composed a new year’s benediction after inquiring of her congregants: “what will you never take for granted again?” It resonated with me and I share it with you as an invitation to reflect on your blessings and to add your own words of gratitude. May we enter this new year filled with appreciation, hope, and a commitment to that which we hold sacred.
May we never again take for granted -
Breathing deeply without a mask
Making plans for the future,
Crossing a boarder,
Ease of travel,
A busy airport
A birthday party with hugs
Having loved ones hold your children,
Sharing a sandwich
Coffee with a friend
Our belief in science
Fact-based public discourse
The sacredness of connection
This year, may we become the people we
wanted to be last year.
May this coming year be better
than the one which has past.
May we stay strong for each other
because we have experienced weakness.
May we stay bound to each other
because we have experienced isolation.
May we stay close to each other
because we have experienced distance.
May our new normal be better than the one
we think we will return to.
-Rabbi Elyse Goldstein