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September 2017 Rabbi Arnow's Article

Renewing the High Holidays

What is the quality you are seeking when you arrive at shul on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur? And by “quality” I mean the essence, attributes, or characteristics of the experience. There are so many different things for which we yearn at High Holiday services.

Is what matters to you relational—seeing, being and interacting with people you care about? Is it participation—co-creating the experience? Is it spiritual—all about the inner prayer experience you have? Or is it intellectual—about what you learn, study, think about and are challenged by at shul? Perhaps the music and singing are the essence for you. For some, the focus is nostalgia—a taste and feeling of how it used to be, of how it’s always been. For some the crucial feature is a sense of obligation or duty—to serve God, fulfill mitzvot, or to do what a Jew does. The quality we seek may be for others—our partner, our children, our parents, and we may just be along for the ride. Some use the time to do personal reflective work, and seek a sense of renewal, rededication, repentance, atonement. For most of us, it’s a combination. Which of these resonate for you? What’s missing from this list?

As we approach the High Holidays this year, by necessity, we’ll have new opportunities for us to express and create many different qualities of the Yamin Noraim (Days of Awe) experience.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and constraints and limitations breed creativity and innovation. We don’t this year have a space we can all fit in together, so we have an opportunity to have two services running concurrently during times of peak attendance. In two services, we can create more intimate, differentiated experiences with much more opportunity for congregants to participate and take leadership roles. I’m eagerly anticipating the energy created by being in smaller, more intimate prayer spaces that will feel more full.

When we have two services running, Rabbi Shafrin and I will be leading a more experimental prayer experience in one space while our talented congregants will be leading a more traditional service. Each day, we’ll be giving our sermons in every service, so you’ll hear the same sermon wherever you’re sitting. I’m so excited about having the chance to be more creative in the way we approach some of the liturgy.

Throughout the holidays, we’ll have learning led by various teachers, including Rabbis Micah Buck-Yael and Jessica Shafrin, running alongside the services, letting us meet a wider range of interests at the same time.

I know many people will miss having services in our sanctuary, and I’m one of them. My favorite moment of Rosh Hashanah, and at Kol Rinah generally, the last two years has been the Shofar service the first day, when the entire congregation—every single person—crams into the sanctuary to be together, to hear the shofar together. I always tear up, if you hadn’t noticed. I’ll really miss that this year, when there’s no space that can accommodate us all at once. And I know for some people, the sanctuary at our 829 N. Hanley Rd. building is the only space they remember being for the High Holidays, going back decades and decades. These memories are holy, and we can and must hold them dear to our hearts.

For those of us who will be missing having things the way they were, I hope that we can also open ourselves to different and new ways of experiencing these Days of Awe.

May we all have moments and experiences that move us, nourish us, sustain us, and inspire us, and may we each be a part of experiences that move, nourish, sustain and inspire those around us.

Sun, August 1 2021 23 Av 5781