With the final blast of the Shofar on N’ilah at Yom Kippur, the congregation breathes a collective sigh of relief. The High Holy Days are complete. If we are fortunate, we leave inspired to face a year with strength and resolve. If I am fortunate, I have spoken a word, or led a prayer, or cued the choir in a melody that has lifted your heart.
The High Holy Days are a time of community, when we welcome each other back warmly. It’s a time of introspection, where amid the melodies and prayers we visit once a year, we spend time with our innermost thoughts, gaining insight that will encourage us to be our very best selves in the year to come. The Shofar’s final call closes the gates for another year. We either hit the mark, or we didn’t. But at the very least, we have strived to embrace the beauty and majesty of the Days of Awe.
During the last few High Holy Day seasons, we at Temple Israel have “piloted” Yom Kippur texts that helped form the basis for Mishkan HaNefesh, the new machzor of the Reform movement. Parting with the familiarity of Gates of Repentance, our unifying text since 1978, introduced us to a rich and meaningful new approach to the traditional prayers, enhanced by contemporary readings that speak in a modern voice. Through a lead gift by Ron and Marla Wolf, matched by many other generous donors, Temple Israel will for the first time provide copies for all worshippers in attendance.
In a “typical” year, the High Holy Days represent weeks of preparation – not just my own writing and study, but also the choir, to the ritual chair and dozens of lay leaders who recreate the “sacred space” of Temple Israel at the JCC each year. The task ahead of us is great – implementing an entirely new liturgical text, from Erev Rosh HaShanah to Kol Nidre through the final chords of N’ilah. Every cue, every reading, every melody will be reviewed, pondered, and lovingly chosen by a team of dedicated volunteers.
The project ahead will surely be great. But I can think of no greater honour than to lead our congregation forward with the spiritual tools for a new generation. I look forward to the coming Days of Awe, and all the work it entails, eager to embrace the challenge ahead.
Rabbi Debra Dressler