Parashat Hashavuha
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Preparation Guide For the High Holidays

Part One

September 9, 2016

     If your synagogue experience on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is one of boredom and tedium, it may not be the fault of the rabbi, cantor, choir or other officiants.  It just may be you are entering the synagogue unprepared for the spiritual task at hand.  Each Friday between now and the High Holidays I will provide a brief guide to preparing spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally for the Days Of Awe.

Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, director the the National Jewish Outreach Center, offers the following ten reasons “why I will be in the synagogue this Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur”:

  1. The entire experience brings me closer to that which is greater than myself, which the Jewish tradition calls God.
  1. I am able to see myself more clearly-warts and all-in the presence of the Divine.
  1. It provides me with the opportunity to be in solidarity with the Jewish community and the Jewish people through time and space while staying in sync with the rhythm of Jewish time.
  1. The lessons of the holidays force me to face my own mortality, my own finitude, and help guide me on a path that will help to make my life count. These lessons are made evident in the liturgy and the spoken words.
  1. I am uplifted by the music and the words of Torah offered by the rabbi.
  1. It provides me with a sacred space for prayer and offers me words of prayer when I am unable to shape them on my own.
  1. The High Holidays provide me with guidance to set my life back on course where I may have strayed. They provide me with strategies for living a holier, more sacred life.
  1. In the context of supportive community, I am not afraid to be vulnerable and I am buoyed in my efforts to become a better person.
  1. I am able to reaffirm my faith in Gd and my belief in the goodness of humankind.
  1. With all that I receive, I am able to leave the synagogue and face the year ahead-optimistically, joyfully, and humbly.

Rabbi Olitzky concludes his list by asking, “If you are a synagogue leader-whether volunteer or professional-can you make sure that I, or any individual, walk away feeling that my motivations have been met?”

Why will you be in the synagogue on the High Holidays?  Next week: Part Two.

Rabbi Howard Siegel


© 2017 Beth Tikvah Synagogue, Richmond, BC, Canada
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