I remember at the start of every school year how excited I was to go school supply shopping and pick up that year’s necessary items that would set me on the path to an incredible year of learning. Trapper Keeper… check. Ticonderoga number 2 pencils… check. New box of Crayola 64-color crayons (with built-in sharpener)… check. Pee-Chee All Season Portfolio folders (you know… the ones with the athletes on the front playing tennis, football and cross-country running). Once I had all of these packed in my Jansport backpack, I was ready for whatever the school year ahead had in store for me.
I bring this up as we prepare for a different “new” year that is right around the corner. Later this month, our Hebrew calendars will turn from the month of Elul to the month of Tishrei and 5781will begin. Typically, during the final days of our year, we are ecouraged to take stock of the past year and reflect on how we have conducted ourselves and think about whether we have worked towards improving the world around us each and every day. Or, as I like to say, have we been the best us we could have been?
Typically, in a “normal” year, many of us look forward to the High Holy Days. It is a chance to reconnect with fellow synagogue members, our faith, G-d, the Jewish community and/or a handful of other things. This year is going to be anything but normal. Sadly, we will not be able to gather in person and see our friends and family in our synagogues’ sanctuaries. Instead, we will get to experience the holy days online from the comfort of our homes.
You may have noticed that I used the word “get” about this year’s holy days and I did so on purpose. I am a big believer in appreciating and finding the good in difficult situations. While I do not consider everything we have going on around us as a “gift,” this year, we get to experience Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah in a way we never have been able to do so before. Think about how you can take advantage of this unique opportunity and try something you have never done before. Take for instance Tashlich. This tradition of casting your sins away by using breadcrumbs and throwing them into a body of water might be difficult to do this year. Maybe, instead, get some birdseed and find a place at your house that you can throw the seeds and then sit back and watch the birds enjoy a special treat.
I am excited for you to read in the next few pages about how our community’s clergy have come together to provide unique aspects to their respective Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services this year. This includes recording and sharing different parts of the services that can be used by other synagogues in their services. Plus, they are coming together to conduct a community-wide S’lichot service that includes Havdalah and teachings. In all likelihood, this would not have happened had we been able to gather in person.
So, even though 5781 is not going to begin the way we would like, it does not make it any less meaningful. We still have the chance to make it special.
On behalf of myself and my family, I would like to wish you and your family a very happy L’shana Tova. May 5781 be a year of good health and happiness.
Jason Moss is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.