September/October 2019

As I finished visiting my mother in La Serena, Chile, I began to contemplate the upcoming Yamim Noraim (High Holy Days).

Growing up in my hometown the High Holy Days were a moving and special experience with a sing-along and participatory service. Most everyone knew what to expect and how to take part. The end of Yom Kippur always inspired and uplifted us, both personally and as a community.

How important are the High Holy Days to you? This year and every year? What is your “why”? I’m guessing there are many of us who desire a few days to shut out and subdue an increasingly outrageous storm of life experiences and reconnect again with a simpler purpose, a more uplifting affinity; we want to remember that there are other things in life (outside of our phones, and our businesses, and the chaos) to enjoy and pay attention to. The opportunity to be in shul in the company of family and community facilitates our longing to reconnect with one another, and with God. It is impossible to avoid the reality of this past year or the effects it has on our lives. Reflection. That is my “why”.

The unspoken call of the Holy Days in La Serena more than 50 years ago was to renew the sacred within and among our 60 person Jewish Community. In Rochester, at Temple Beth El, the essence of last Rosh Hashanah, and last Yom Kippur, to this year, remains the same, to embrace the healing, restorative nature of these days of awe. But let us remember to take a moment, in this new year, to acknowledge what is different as we are drawn together into our new sanctuary, to make meaning of our shared time. We are being brought before “the court on high” to forgive each other, as well as our lesser selves, and the way forward toward a greater evolution of spirit.

Do you want to know “why”? Because we need these sacred days to walk through a world that may sometimes seem like a smog laden valley and give ourselves time to come out the other end spiritually and communally uplifted. We must renew ourselves spiritually, keeping our faith and community alive.

May the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur observances help us nd a spiritual state where we can acknowledge that we have endured, and come away spiritually ready to ascend to new acts of selfless loving kindness and take deliberate and conscious views of our lives. We need this season. For these ten days, at least, let us run no more. May we take this time to make our lives worth living and ll them with Jewish experience and renewed spirit.

Shanah Tova U’mtukah Rabbi Leonardo Bitran