Just a week ago today I returned home (to Minneapolis) from two amazing holidays with you in Ann Arbor. It was an honor and pleasure to accompany you through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year, and a treat to work so closely with Deb Kraus (as well as Gillian and Etta!) in all the planning.
I’m remembering so many powerful moments of community: the gorgeous harmonies of the davening team, beginning with Hashkiveinu on Erev Rosh Hashanah and ending with Karov at the end of Yom Kippur; deep, soulful reflections (kavanot) from nine community members; engaging conversation about our reluctant prophet Jonah and how we are/aren’t like him; moving stories of deceased loved-ones; members who could be present stepping in last-minute for those who couldn’t (especially Molly on our final shofar!); music and Haftarah from our teens; and more. And outside the services, so many of you helped with communications beforehand, with setting up and cleaning up for services, and preparing the break-fast! The genuine sharing of community was truly manifest during these High Holy Days; you held these core Jewish activities together and I hope you feel really good about it.
More than ever this year, I’ve been appreciating the brilliance of our Holy Days cycle, with Sukkot pairing with the holidays we celebrated together. During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, along with the time leading up to RH and the 10 Days of Awe in between, we have space and rituals for deep reflection on our mortality, on our past year(s) and on how we want to live going forward. While we enact this process in community, the inner work is about how we show up individually to our relationships and communities. There is a severity of tone as we ask ourselves, How can I do better?
Sukkot, which begins four days after Yom Kippur, sends us back into the physical world, to be together, to rejoice in our shared fragility and the abundance of our lot. It is predominantly social, and agricultural, celebrating cycles of the earth rather than the linear trajectory of our lives. R’ Yitz Greenberg points out the fallacy of considering the fast of Yom Kippur to be more holy than the feast of Sukkot. As humans, we are meant to experience the full range of the human experience. Sukkot is known as z’man simchateinu, the Season of our Joy! The biblical command is to be joyful – in the sense of fully embracing all of what life has to offer, and in the sense of sharing our abundance with those less fortunate.
My hope is that you have had or will have the opportunity to relax in a sukkah with loved ones. My prayer is that you, together, gain clarity of vision for your next phase as a community, while continuing to show up profoundly and sustainably with and for one another and the wider community.
Thank you for the opportunity to be with you this season.
L’vracha, with blessings,
Rabbi Debra Rappaport