Yesterday I received a phone call from a friend of mine. He’s a rabbi and since we hadn’t spoken in a few months his first question to me was “how were the holidays?” Spontaneously, I answered, “fantastic.”
They truly were for a number of reasons. First and foremost was the use of our new machzor, Mishkan HaNefesh. It was energizing to encounter new English readings and commentaries that added insight into the meaning of the prayers. In addition, the elegant poetry that is so prevalent throughout the machzor was inspiring. I was heartened by the many expressions of appreciation for Mishkan HaNefesh I heard throughout Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Secondly, the music for the High Holy Days was wonderful. The choir sounded terrific under the sure direction of Mary Stocker. Amy Belles’s playing was exquisite, as always. Our new cantorial soloist, Miriam Brutus, touched the hearts of all of us who heard her beautiful singing.
The holidays are not just about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They also include Sukkot and Simchat Torah. As for the former, I was so pleased by the turn-out for our first night celebration of Sukkot. Constructing and decorating the congregational sukkah just before sundown fostered a communal feeling. Add to that the substantial turn-out by folks of all ages for our outdoor service and “pizza in the hut.” Seeing so many people that evening was a real lift.
Lastly, Simchat Torah this past Sunday night was excellent. Again, there was a large attendance. But most importantly, when the Torah was unrolled and held by everyone present; and upcoming Bar and Bat Mitzvah students stood by their portion in the Torah; and we saw the entirety of Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy all at one time and we viewed ourselves as links in a historic chain stretching millennia; then the experience transcended being “fantastic” and instead reached the level of the sublime.
Having journeyed through the High Holy Days, I feel great satisfaction about our communal experience together. Next week, I will embark on a very personal journey as I begin my sabbatical. I know the congregation will be in very good hands during the time I am away. May our beloved congregation always be a place of inspiration and friendship; learning and laughter; celebration and peace.