A Rosh Hashanah Message
Written by Jonathan Schwartz, Director of Jewish Life
On the evening of September 18th, as we’ve done all our lives and our people have done for centuries, we will welcome the Jewish New Year with the unique combination of joy and awe that is Rosh HaShanah.
The commingling of joy and earnest self-reflection is one of the sublime lessons of Rosh HaShanah. The day is one where we lay bare our souls and rely on our faith in God’s mercy and loving-kindness in accepting our t’shuvah, — our repentance, our return — to God and to our true selves. In the remarkable words of the Psalmist, on this day we strive to “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:11)
We are about to embark on our Rosh HaShanah journey in a way that none of us have ever experienced before. Many of us will be participating in some form of online services or sharing a traditional holiday brisket with family on Zoom. While we may not be able to physically be with our families and friends this Rosh Hashanah, I maintain that our connection to each other and our tradition remains strong.
I’ve never liked the term “social distancing.” We are not actually “social distancing” from each other. Rather, more accurately we are “physically distancing.” But the social/emotional connections that we have with each other remain intact and strong.
Being physically isolated from the ones we love and even colleagues that we enjoy working with, can cause loneliness and may lead to a slew of negative emotions. Personally, I have had a difficult time with this, as I am a very social person who enjoys learning and praying with our residents in person. Like you, I miss getting together with friends and family on the weekends. Not being able to be around other people socially has certainly been challenging.
The reality is that we do not and should not completely socially distance from one another, however, we certainly do need to physically distance from one another. One of the incredible things about the time we are living in is that we are fortunate to be able to stay connected to each other without being in one another’s physical presence.
Texting, e-mail, social media, FaceTime, Zoom or even a good old fashioned phone call, are all great ways to stay in contact with the ones we care about, without having to be sitting next to them physically.
Most people would agree that staying socially connected is critical to helping others, and ourselves, get through this trying time. It is one of many reasons why our High Holiday prayers are all in the first person plural (“we” not “I”).
By maintaining these vital social connections, many of us have deepened our commitment to Judaism by engaging in online Jewish learning, singing and prayer, some for the first time in years. For most of us, our synagogues, our teachers or our Jewish social justice activism are as close as our computer or tablet.
With the help of several longtime friends of SH, I will be recording all of the High Holiday services “live on tape” as the saying goes, and each will air on the appropriate day and time on our in-house TV channel. Will it be the same as previous years? No. Will I miss praying in community with our wonderful residents and many of you who join us every year. Yes. But if we’ve done our job well, it will bring the promise of Rosh Hashanah to each of your loved ones and no one will feel isolated or forgotten. In addition, we’ll be passing out apples and honey to each and every resident in person on Sept. 18th, Erev Rosh Hashanah.