Ready or not Rosh Hashanah arrives tomorrow! And I do not feel ready.
Never in my career have I prepared more for the Days of Awe, and never in my career have I felt less prepared.
Frankly, were it not for the amazing Tech Team of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands, I would feel completely lost in leading our community and those who join us from afar in virtual worship. I cannot thank them enough.
This year is just so different from anything we have ever experienced. Of course I am not alone in that feeling.
Never in my life have I heard so many people – or any people for that matter — quote the liturgical poem for Rosh Hashanah Eve, Ahot Katanah, “Little Sister.” The prayer stems from the biblical book of Song of Songs (8:8) and references Israel as the Eternal One’s “little sister” who suffers greatly yet remains faithful to God. The prayer proclaims, “Let the old year with its curses end … May the New year with her blessings begin.”
Indeed that is the hope of all of us: a new year of blessings, a new year free of the Covid-19 curse, a year free from racial injustice, free from police brutality, free from hunger, eviction, unemployment and want.
May the New Year starting so ominously blossom into a year of peace, kindness, racial harmony and good health.
And yet so much is uncertain. My former student and now friend, Rabbi Debra Kassoff and Rabbi Annie Belford beautifully capture that uncertainty in these words:
Knowing You are God, not knowing what that means…
We proclaim the sacred power of this day,
The sacred power of the shofar’s blast,
The power of the internet connecting us
While the power of an infinitesimally small virus reshapes the meaning of what human power can and cannot do…
It is awesome and full of dread.
How can we not feel dread in a time like this? And yet we remember:
In encouraging the exiled children of Judah to return and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem the Babylonians destroyed in 586 BCE the prophet Zechariah (9:12) proclaimed, “Return to your strongholds, you Prisoners of Hope.”
“Prisoners of Hope” describes the perseverance of he Jewish people through all that has befallen us over the millennia. Prisoners of hope we have been, and Prisoners of Hope we shall remain.
Knowing what we have survived inspires me to believe that we will endure through the pandemic and all of its accompanying nightmares. Somehow, some way – as we always have — we will endure and emerge from the coronavirus darkness.
And so with awe and dread, but bolstered by the hope that will not release us. we will step into the New Year.
L’shana Tova! A good year!