Only those on the inside of the process know how much work it takes to make the High Holy Days seem to flow without too much effort. When you arrive at the synagogue, you rightfully expect chairs to be set, books to be available, honors to be distributed, children's activities to be in place and sermons to be prepared. And they will be (except, maybe, the sermons.....).
It is after those pieces are in place that we can all be reasonably assured that each of us will have the experience, both communal and personal, which the holidays should provide: introspection, inspiration and the joy of gathering together. How can you help us and everyone else achieve that goal?
First is the classic annoyance of the High Holy Days. Bring your tickets. The ushers and our Executive Director tremble at the most thankless job of the year – asking people for their tickets. The tickets are necessary for two reasons. First, it is our way of making sure that the needs of our members are being met. While the synagogue is open to everyone all year 'round, the importance of these days and the crowds which gather require us to be certain to show respect and consideration for you who support us with your membership by ensuring space for you to worship. Because not everyone who ushers knows every every face in the congregation, tickets eliminate the embarrassment of "I don't know who you are." Second, tickets are our way of acknowledging that you have upheld your responsibility to maintain the shul and its program. No matter what the dollar amount of your dues, your response to our request for support deserves our recognition. As always, we will accommodate any necessary adjustment in dues or payment schedule.
The second is to move forward. There is no homiletical meaning to that statement – it is literal. Move toward the front. While the expanded sanctuary is filled at certain times, often there is a great deal of space closer to the front of both the permanent and temporary sections. Of course, if someone arrives who has dedicated a permanent seat, we ask you to relocate. But a gathering of congregants closer together makes the service more intimate and our connection to each other more obvious.
The third is to speak with children who are accompanying you to synagogue. The holidays are difficult times for kids. Services are long and space is cramped, and they know that the activities we have planned for them are designed to enable you to be in the sanctuary. Acknowledge the circumstances, but use them as an opportunity to teach your children about growing into Jewish adulthood. Leaving the premises, disrupting activities, or resisting the supervision of our staff of volunteers diminish the holidays for everyone and divert everyone's attention from the import of the day. The High Holy Day liturgy is seeks to transform the individual; the High Holy Day experience is one of community.
Okay – so you sewed your ticket to your kittel and you took your seat so close you can see my knees knocking and you have had a furrowed-brow talk with every child you know. Now what?
Now lose yourself in the message of the day. Let the affirmations of Rosh HaShanah soothe your soul. Let the sounds of the shofar shake away the crust around your heart. Let the voice of our chazzan take you on a voyage of the spirit. Let the tears of Yom Kippur wash you clean. Leave the rest to us.
If I have offended you in any way this past year, please accept my deepest apology.
And on behalf of Ann, Jennie, Julia and Max, I wish you the most blessed of years.