Here It Comes

It’s a cool, cloudy morning. The leaves are turning and starting to fall. The colors of my garden are fading. Yes, there’s no mistaking it: this is it. The new year has arrived.

Tonight will be familiar and yet, so different. We’ll be together in the way we always are to welcome the new year. But the way we’ll be gathered, well, that’s a first.

Rabbi Larry Kushner calls Rosh Hashanah “the annual meeting of the Jewish people.” I love that image and it’s sustained me for almost 40 years in the pulpit. It’s the homecoming, the enormous satisfaction that comes with seeing one’s community in attendance. It’s reassuring and powerful. It directly links us to our first tribal assembly at Mt Sinai.

This time, the gathering is remote. There are no hugs, no sharing photos, no catching up face to face. All we have is the link you click on to be here now.

But that’s ok. Most of us have handled online zoom chats with friends, family, business, commerce, music, lectures – it’s a part of the landscape now. We can do this.

What to wear? Put on a tallit? How to set yourself up? Where to sit? When to click in, live or delayed? That’s your call. For some, tonight will feature Susan singing, me talking, Jamie playing, and a big bowl of popcorn, and sweats. For others, it’s dress for the occasion: a new outfit, an actual dress shirt and a tie! It’s all about how you want to settle in for the service. Sing out loud, follow along, Facetime with a friend and participate in the service together. There’s no right way, only your way.

Let us know between now and Sukkot what it’s like. We want to share the home experiences we’re having. It’s another way to share and celebrate together. And don’t worry – there is no judgement. Many people – particularly in my family – have longed to put me on hold…

Your TBA staff – all of them – has worked long into the night over the last few months to make this a memorable, spiritually significant experience. In the beginning, it may feel weird and slightly surreal; I’m pretty sure I’ll feel that way, too. But I’ll be looking at you. I’ll be connecting to you. And we will connect to each other through the speed of light and sound. And through history and memory. And through familiar liturgy and music written on our hearts.

Please email Becky Oliver (boliver@bethavodah.org) wish her a sweet new year and then tell her why she is the most extraordinary woman ever: able to leap tall buildings, send out links, consider camera angles and raise two school-aged boys with her terrific husband, Mike. Let me put it simply: without her, we would be pale and anemic, monaural and blurry. She’s on the rainbow side of Oz.

Eileen Brooks has gone so far and above the call of duty. There are countless examples of her dedication and creativity all over the HHD: colors, fonts, information access, Facebook links, video, and more. She has kept connecting us since the pandemic began – and before.

Amy Tonkonogy has devoted countless hours to helping us put together a service experience online that is utterly nonpareil. Her eye for detail, her producer’s acumen, and her love of TBA, combine to give all of us the extraordinary opportunity to be present and engaged in this strange new world of 5781.

Liza and I and the Stern Gang wish you a sweet new year. We pray that you and yours stay healthy and safe. We entreat you to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and social distance.

I know that it’s a tradition to say, “L’shana haba-ah b’yerushalayim” at the end of a seder. This year, I will add a similar aspiration: l’shanah haba-ah b’chazera lbeit tifilateinu: next year, back here: in our holy space, at TBA.

See you in a little while.

Shabbat Shalom and shana tova,

rebhayim

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