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Ta Shema: September 10, 2021

We did it! We made it through Rosh HaShanah, renewed for a new year. Whether in person, streaming, or a bit of both, 5781 became 5782.

We still heard the sound of the shofar. We still sang out the traditional songs of our holiday, in the sanctuary or on your couch. We still had festive meals, gathered around the dining table with family and friends, a small gathering of just your household, or by yourself with a Sunshine Meal—being held by your community from a distance.

A lot of sacrifices were made this year, and every decision was both a loss and a gain. We had to cancel our Rosh HaShanah dinner. We had to limit seating and restrict attendance to members and vaccinated individuals. Our seats were not able to be filled to allow for social distancing. Many people chose to stream, and we were not able to see their faces or hear their voices. These were losses.

I strongly believe that these losses were outweighed by the gains of keeping our doors open with piece of mind, knowing that the health and safety of our congregation was our priority, and doing our part to reduce the risk of further spreading the virus.

I am done praying for next year to be better. I instead want to experience my gratitude for the present.

I am thankful for this community that has been able to roll with the punches. I am thankful for our staff and volunteers who worked double time to try to arrange honors, seating, and other essential holiday tasks. These tasks are usually daunting, but especially so this year with the ever-changing situation of the Delta variant and individuals going back and forth, for their good reasons, to decide between attending in person versus streaming. I am thankful for every person who showed up and streamed, committing ourselves again to our Bnai Israel family.

As we say goodbye to Rosh HaShanah and hello to Yom Kippur, I offer the following Rosh Hashanah benediction by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat.

Gmar Chatimah Tovah. May we all be sealed in the Book of Life.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Chaya Bender


Sonnet for our second

COVID Rosh HaShanah


I don't want to reckon with my choices:

feels like that's all we've done for 18 months

(should I mask, is this safe, what if

we meet outside and never breathe together?)

I don't want to query who will live

and who will die, who by wildfire and who

by flooded subway, who intubated and alone

and who will have enough while others lack.

I just want all of us to thrive: our hearts

at ease, our hopes in reach at last.

Come close to me, God. Comfort me with apples.

Remind me the world is born again each year --

even if I'm not ready, even if this year

I'm not sure I know the words to pray.

Mon, October 3 2022 8 Tishrei 5783