October is our climactic pivot, and our spiritual pivot into what's next.
Our first three months together were a whirlwind as we moved into and through the High Holy Days of 5784. I'm grateful to everyone who stepped up and/or offered feedback. (Direct feedback to me will help me continue to fine-tune how I serve you, so keep it coming!)
Now we shift gears into the rest of the year!
Calendars offer fixed points that locate us in time and feel different as we move through them. Secular life's pivot points include moving clocks forward (March) and back (November), summer's unofficial start (Memorial Day) and end (Labor Day), and whenever Christmas / Hanukkah sales begin.
The idea is similar in Jewish spiritual life. Judaism's spiritual calendar divides roughly in half between spring-summer and autumn-winter, based on festivals keyed to Israel's climate. Spring-summer begins with Passover, when the Amidah begins to enfold prayer for dew (מוריד הטל / morid ha-tal); autumn-winter begins at the end of Sukkot, when the Amidah shifts to enfold prayer for rain (משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם / mashiv ha-ruah u'morid ha-gashem). Passover's start and Sukkot's end are temporal antipodes of the Jewish year.
This year's autumn-winter shift happens on October 6. That evening, Shir Ami will gather for Shabbat / Shemini Atzeret / Simhat Torah. (For more on Shemini Atzeret, which is its own festival timed to the end of Sukkot, read more here and especially here.)
This shift is many things at once. It's the end of the Passover–Shavuot–Sukkot festival cycle. It's the last hurrah of the intense High Holy Day cycle. It's the last Yizkor of the year. (During our October 6 service, we'll observe Yizkor for our beloveds.) It's the ritual shift into autumn-winter. (During our October 6 service, I will change from "summer tallit" to "winter tallit.") It's the end of Torah and start of Torah. (During our October 6 service, we'll end the Torah cycle and begin it anew in one big sacred breath, symbolizing that neither Torah nor our spiritual journey truly ends.)
Three Months After a New Rabbi Begins...
Our October pivot also is something more for Shir Ami this year. After three intense months, we now get to settle into "the rest of the year" – and we get to decide together what that will mean. And with a new rabbi, there's a lot swirling around:
- For some, these first months with a new rabbi have been a welcome portal to new thoughts, feelings and experiences. There's been a lot of change, and hallelujah! There's a felt desire to keep going and lean into continuing that trajectory in the year ahead.
- For some, these first months with a new rabbi have been bewildering, even unnerving. There's been a lot of change, and a breathlessness to its pace given the confluence of Shir Ami's summer schedule and the impending High Holy Days when I first began. There's a felt desire to downshift, take stock and catch up to ourselves.
- For some, these first months with a new rabbi have toggled between both wow and woah, maybe with some what?! mixed in for good measure. There's a felt desire to take it all in and find some proverbial sea legs.
- For some, the High Holy Days are the year's main experience of Jewish communal life, and see ya' next year.
- For some, the High Holy Days have been the year's main experience of Jewish communal life, but this year will be different because there are new opportunities to learn, immerse and grow.
During our first three months together, I've joked a bunch of times that whoever came up with the prevailing rabbinic start date of July 1, right up against the High Holy Days, deserves a good-natured nuggie. It's a lot – for the incoming rabbi, for the community, and especially for officers and core volunteers. In hindsight, on balance I'm grateful for the intensity because it's helped me begin getting to know more of us more deeply than a slow rolling start might have allowed.
That said, I know that it's been a lot.
My hope for October and the forthcoming autumn-winter season is that folks will continue to share with me your perspectives on the High Holy Days – what worked for you (and why) and what changes you want to see (and why). I hope folks will share what they want their spiritual lives to be, the questions luring on their hearts and minds, the matters that most animate or deflate you. I hope you'll reach out to schedule chats, zooms and coffees to help me continue getting to know everyone deeply. With the ritual intensity downshifting, hopefully we'll all have some more spacious time for these important parts of building spiritual community together.
And starting this month, I hope folks will participate in building an online spiritual learning community.
Starting November 1, we'll launch our "Mitzvah and Mysticism" series for six Wednesdays 7:30pm. We'll explore common Jewish mitzvot (e.g. lighting Shabbat candles, offering Motzi over bread and affixing mezuzot) from two sets of perspectives: (1) Textually, where do these mitzvot come from and what do they entail? (2) Spiritually and mystically, what's really going on with each mitzvah, and what invitations are they extending to us?
Thank you for the joy and privilege of becoming your rabbi. I look forward to learning together, building community together, figuring out together where Shir Ami is going, and celebrating together this meaningful pivot into what's next.