By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
Looking Ahead to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur
While I am writing these lines, we are celebrating the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, the New Month of Elul. That means that we are only one month ahead of Rosh Hashana, the beginning of the new year.
As you probably know, the Jewish tradition establishes that during the month of Elul, the last month of the Hebrew calendar, we have to revisit our behavior during the year that is ending. This way, we can acknowledge our bad actions and ask forgiveness for them. It is a month of introspection, balance, and repentance.
The beginning of Elul also marks the start of a somewhat stressful period for Jewish religious and lay leaders all around the world. Rabbis need to write their sermons, cantors must practice their prayers, service leaders want to review the order of the religious services they were asked to conduct, and lay leaders are worried about the logistics of the High Holidays’ services.
All of these leaders, religious and lay leaders alike, review what they did in previous years, and some of them take the opportunity to think about what new things they might try for this coming year. Many leaders note that they would like to accomplish certain goals during the Yamim Noraim, and some of them even design a strategy in order to make that happen.
As rabbis of Temple Beth El, we are also part of this big “wave” of people who are planning for the High Holidays. And we also have our review of last year’s services and our goals for this year, too. On this occasion, I would like to share with you, dear members of Temple Beth El, some aspects of the High Holidays that we would like to improve. Please take note!
- First service of Slichot: This beautiful and deep religious service is poorly attended, although it helps us to prepare for a more meaningful Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. This year, we will try to incorporate into it some group activity that will enable us to lower our stress and help us to experience the Holidays in a more meaningful way. The date is Saturday, September 16th, at 8 pm: don’t miss it!
- Children’s attendance: It is so important to bring our children to the synagogue during the Holidays! They learn from the prayers and sermons, but they learn even more from the experience. There will be special services for children—more, we hope, than last year. And even if there are not activities for children at every service, they can still play with their “colleagues” in the library or the classrooms. Bring your children to the synagogue!
- Dress in white during Yom Kippur: Dressing in white helps us to better experience Yom Kippur. You feel differently when you dress in white, either wearing the kittel or just with regular white clothing. And besides, it is beautiful and moving when the whole synagogue looks white on Yom Kippur.
- Please join us for the end of Yom Kippur: for thousands of Jewish congregations around the world, the end of Yom Kippur (Neila and Havdala) is the moment of the year when the synagogue is best attended. Children are anxious to parade with their candles, and their parents cry as they watch them entering the Sanctuary. This is a moment when we feel so energized and proud to be Jewish and to work for the sake of the Jewish people. Why can’t we experience this here at our synagogue home? Don’t miss it, come to the end of Yom Kippur. And if you have children, bring them with you!
Rabbi Daniela and I enjoyed last year’s High Holiday services very much. We were so happy to welcome new faces, as well as familiar ones. The congregation was very respectful and prayed with devotion during many different prayers. And we look forward to enjoying the same feeling this year too… and also to emphasize the slichot service, the children’s attendance, the white Yom Kippur clothing, and your attendance and participation at the end of Yom Kippur. Let’s begin the month of Elul full of hope and let’s prepare for meaningful High Holidays!