President’s Message – Tishrei 5771 – September 2010
Putting the High Back in the Holidays
Tishrei was originally the 7th month of the Hebrew calendar. September is the 9th month in our secular calendar, although “sept” also stands for 7. But in both we restart a new year – our spiritual year 5771 and the school year, that affects all in our society directly or indirectly.
Our ancestors celebrated Tishrei as a harvest festival, for they lived closer to the earth than most of us do these days. They were aware that Rosh Hashana, the new year, started with the new moon before the change in seasons. Succot, the 7 day harvest, was lit by the harvest moon as they lived in huts reaping the summer’s produce. Simchat Torah was a celebration recognizing that our learning never ends, just begins again. Originally Yom Kippur was a solemn day of individual and national repentance into the afternoon and renewing and recreating relationships in the evening; some old-timers in this community remember Yom Kippur break fasts and dances.
One of my favorite moments in this month of celebration is Shabbat Shuvah – the shabbat of return, of repentance, the Saturday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For me, it has always felt like homecoming, a second chance. Nate and Charlie, our sons, were born on Shabbat Shuvah and became bnai mitzvah 13 years later. I also remember the orange glow of late September sunsets in Long Beach, NY, with the water temperature warmer than the air, with the fall creeping in.
One question for our community at this time of the year is how we can make our time together more meaningful. For many, there is comfort in returning to the songs and practices of our lives – the power of the communal release of Kol Nidre, the memories of Yizkor, catching up on the events of a year with people we don’t see often. Others have questions which might be discussed during the break on Yom Kippur afternoon or other times. And perhaps we might during transition moments in the services, as we walk to Tashlich to throw our misgivings in the Nautchaug River, or during the break fast discuss how we might organize our community to reach in to ourselves and out to the wider community.
This month will feature time for community conversations. We will be celebrating the harvest festival on Wednesday evening, September 22 as we should – by sharing the bounty of our gardens and our homes by coming together with a potluck dinner in the synagogue succah and short services. On Wednesday evening, September 29, our kids, the Bnai Brith Youth Organization, will be organizing a communal dinner before we celebrate the concluding services of the holiday season – a ceremony celebrating the change of season and Simchat Torah – rejoicing with the Torah about our continuing learning and growth in understanding as we start again at the beginning.
Best wishes to you and yours for a very happy, healthy, peaceful, and fulfilling new year 5771. le-shana tova tikatevu ve-techatemu – For a good year you shall be written and confirmed.