Shabbat Message: Rosh Hashanah Came Last Wednesday

Posted on September 4, 2020 by Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck

Rosh Hashanah came for a visit a few days ago. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss the actual Yom Tov. That will come on time, according to the proper rhythm of the Hebrew calendar, and we will celebrate it with joy, as is fitting.

So how did Cantor Wallach, Amy Rubin, and I experience Rosh Hashanah this week? Here’s how. Since we, as a congregation, cannot safely gather in our sanctuary at this time, we, the clergy and staff of TBE, are bringing the sanctuary to you. To do this – to provide the ambiance of our sacred space, and to do it in a safe way – a few of us gathered, with proper social distance and other appropriate precautions, to record much of the service in the sanctuary. Our cantor was accompanied by our talented and beloved accompanist Kathy Shanklin, we took out the sifrei Torah from the Ark, with several of our congregants coming at different times to read from it, and we captured the power of the shofar blasts. The machzor has been transformed into PowerPoint slides (akin to what we have done for Shabbat services since March), so that all can follow and participate in the service. All this is being coordinated and edited so that it can be interspersed with other elements, like my sermons and messages, which will be presented in real time via Zoom. Putting all of this together has required no small effort and a great deal of creativity and vision, all of which promise worship experiences that will be beautiful and meaningful for all.

Something unexpected also happened on Wednesday. In a time of many firsts, this experience of Rosh Hashanah on Wednesday was a most extraordinary one. I don’t know exactly what made it so special, but I can tell you that I found myself moved to tears by the experience. The melodies pierced my heart and soul and the liturgy was luminous. Personally, I think I need the High Holy Days now more than ever, and I strongly suspect that you will feel the same way, if you don’t already, when you experience them.

We need an anchor in these tumultuous times. We need a rock on which we can stand when so much is uncertain and frighteningly tenuous. Recalling that God lovingly created us; hearing the call to renew our faith in life and its goodness; remembering that our existence has meaning; looking to the future with hope and confidence for redemption that is yet to come; knowing that God urges us to return to the best that is in us and forgives us our failings – all of these life-affirming themes and messages of the Holy Days are a balm for troubled spirits. This is what I felt on Wednesday – and it was just a rehearsal!

So, I encourage you to take heart and look forward with anticipation and excitement as the Days of Awe draw near. This surely will be a Yom Tov season like none we have ever experienced. But I suspect that they will be more important and powerful than any we have celebrated before.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Arnie Gluck