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5781: Festival during Pandemic Times

This is the season of balanced light. Day and night hours become equal and move towards greater darkness. This is the season of our new year. We begin the year in a place of balance. We enter the year in the same manner as we enter the new day: in the evening, dusk, when the light changes from light to dark.

We are also entering our third season in the time of COVID. We have lived through a full spring and summer and now we enter fall, still mid-pandemic. This Tishrei will be a challenge. A new year in the middle of a pandemic? Amidst societal and environmental and political turmoil we are indeed readying ourselves for the New Year. This year as every year since Biblical times we have gathered at prescribed seasons within the cycle of the moon to gather our tribes together for rituals of gratitude and forgiveness. A time of societal and spiritual renewal.

This month Tishrei is home to many holidays. This is our festival season. A month of family, friends, community, prayer, sharing, thanksgiving, and penitence. This year we are presented with the challenge of a festival within disruption. It has been a challenge for our ancestors before experienced. We reach for joy and gratitude even when we are in deep mourning. We learned this from those who came before us. Even during chaotic times, we come together. We grasp into whatever we can to make this holiday season real in our lives. Shofars were smuggled into concentration camps and blown silently. Celebration of life, community, and family is what has given us hope for generations. Asking for forgiveness and apologizing for what we did in knowingly or unknowingly has allowed us to remain spiritually alive by offering ritualized ways to transform and renew ourselves. In the image of the Divine.

Each one of you will find your own ways to celebrate and commemorate the season. I hope that much of that will be through engaging in the community. Connecting to our ancient tribe. We have survived many deserts and displacements. Pandemics too. Let this season in the cycle of the Jewish year be a source of hope and faith. Our ancestors have words for us. We have inherited something precious from our past. And we have something precious and life-giving to pass on to future generations. They will need Judaism. The world will bring them challenges we cannot even imagine—our work is to pass on the best of our tradition as a survival tool. A spiritual inheritance that cannot be taken away.

May this year ahead be one of peace and justice, joy and health, life and prosperity, blessing, and sustainability. May this all rain on us. Clearing out what is stale and giving us new life.

Shana Tova,

Rabbi Kinberg


Come Home: A Rosh Hashanah Meditation

To the daughter who does not visit her mother, we say: Come home.

To the mother whose family who has perished from old age or enmity, we say: Come home.

To the son whose father is unknown, we say: Come home.

And to the broken-hearted who has been bound by all of this or none of it, we say:

Come home.

As you turn to us during these holy days

let us turn to you,

our souls walking toward each other

and welcoming each other,

on the long and mysterious walk home.


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