A few things make the High Holy Days uniquely our own at Agudas Achim. It is worth appreciating them.
On the first day of Rosh HaShanah, we invite all of the babies born or arrived in the preceding year to join us on the bima. We strongly prefer they come accompanied by at least one parent. Each child is introduced by English and Hebrew name and welcomed by the congregation. That ceremony will occur this year just before 10:00 on Shabbat, September 27. The ceremony is also a moment to share thoughts and prayers with those not blessed with the children they desire, and hope that fulfillment of their dreams comes in the coming year.
On the second day, members are invited to participate in our special shofar service. After the Torah reading and required soundings, those with a (real, not toy) shofar are invited to have a turn sounding it during special readings conducted from the bima. Each member will be asked to sound a solo tekia, with a group tekia gedolah at the end.
Shofarot are also welcome to the Tashlikh service. This custom of symbolically casting off our sins by throwing breadcrumbs into a body of living waters has become a wonderful time of congregational togetherness and sacred cacophony. Usually held on the first day, when Shabbat also occurs that day, it is postponed to the second day. We will meet at the synagogue for mincha at 5:00 and leave for Timber Branch Creek at 5:30 from the parking lot.
And on Yom Kippur at Ne’ilah, the ark is opened and congregants are invited to come to the ark and offer their own private personal prayers. Many congregations have adopted this practice, but the elegant spontaneous choreography of the individuals and families who approach the ark makes this our own unique version of a growing custom. Afterward, we break fast together.
Of course, there are a few customs not unique to us, but part of the wholeness of our practice. Our staff looks forward to our annual “reception lines” on the first night of Rosh HaShanah and the evening of Yom Kippur. Barry Isaacs’s late-afternoon class on Yom Kippur enables us to fulfill the custom of an uninterrupted day of devotion. And the increasing number of people who wear a plain kittel, an unadorned white garment, or similarly understated clothing, has allowed our congregation to maintain an focus on the meaning of the days.
I ask you to embrace another custom this year. Whatever our reasons for issuing tickets in the past, security has been added to the list permanently. However, our ushers are volunteers (please treat them gently!) and often caught up in the hectic nature of the days. Please make a point of introducing yourself to any unfamiliar person you see. Aside from continuing our reputation for warmth and welcome, you will also be our eyes and ears.
Finally, and most importantly, please accept my apologies for any neglect or insult you suffered at my hand this year. It was not purposeful, but I am no less contrite for my lack of intent. Ann and the kids join me in wishing you a good inscription and confirmation in the Book of Life.