Most every spiritual system has a festival time of year dedicated to shining light in the darkness. As the Northern day reaches its lowest ebb, Jews around the world prepare to celebrate Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah's nightly ritual of kindling candles has become one of Judaism's most cherished rituals.
Especially this year, it's about much more than candles.
Welcome to October. The High Holy Days are history. Our gloriously warm, clear days have a limited shelf life. The leaves are soon to turn. After a last burst of vibrant color, the natural world will shift into the darker months of laying fallow. Browns and grays will temper the diminishing light further until the season of freeze and snow begins.
October is our climactic pivot, and our spiritual pivot into what's next.
Welcome to the Season of Meaning as we approach Rosh Hashanah 5784.
This Rabbi’s Desk column for September is about this year’s High Holy Day journey – my overall philosophy, what to expect, what’ll be similar to past years at Shir Ami, what’ll be different and why. This column also includes links to two new melodies that we'll use, and a few suggestions for making the most of our journey together.
From my heart to yours, I send blessings for a 5784 of sweet goodness for each of you and your loved ones, and our beloved Congregation Shir Ami. Here we go!
A Quick Summary
Many things about the High Holy Days at Shir Ami will be very similar to last year. The prayerbook, musical director and vocal quartet, Torah readers, Kol Nidre cellist, Yizkor experience and many tunes will be the same. The confluence of Erev Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat require some liturgical changes on both Erev Rosh Hashanah and Rosh Hashanah's first morning, and Shir Ami will experiment with a Rosh Hashanah Day 2 to enfold rituals omitted the prior day due to Shabbat.
This year will feature two new tunes (Return Again and an Ahavat Olam setting) that the community is invited to hear in advance. We'll use them on Selikhot evening (Sept. 9), when we'll co-write part of our Yom Kippur liturgy together. This year also will make some changes to Unetaneh Tokef and Yom Kippur afternoon to freshen those offerings in close coordination with the community's leadership.
Because the prayerbook omits many transliterations and translations, this year everything we do will be on user-friendly slides in addition to the prayerbook itself. This addition also will help bring deeper meaning to what we do together.
Please read below for details, more information and a few invitations and requests from me.
By Rabbi David Evan Markus
August once brought the sure end of summer. In Simon & Garfunkel's "April Come She Will" (1962), August was the month that "Die she must / The autumn winds blow, chilly and cold." For area families with school-aged children and grandchildren, August still brings vacations winding down, returns from camp and "back to school" sales.
But in our climate-change world, August is still full-throttle summer. And this year, most of August 2023 comes before the Serious Matters of the High Holy Days for most of us. Jewishly speaking, it's high summer.
Yet, my friends, slow change is in the air.
By Rabbi David Evan Markus
Happy July, Shir Ami! As we begin our journey together in sacred community, I want to begin a monthly practice of sharing brief words about where each month invites us in the flow of spiritual time. By taking stock of where we are in the arc of the year, together we can deepen and heighten our experience of Jewish and spiritual life.
For this first monthly Rabbi's Corner column, I find myself in the flow of decades. Yes, this week officially begins our journey as rabbi and congregation – fellow community travelers surfing the joys and inevitable oys of living Jewishly. But it's not Shir Ami's start – not by decades.