One Thing I Ask
Look up. The new moon of Ellul has arrived, signalling spiritual preparations for the New Year.
Look around. The world has changed since last year.
Look within. We have changed, too.
Listen up. At our weekday morning minyan throughout the month of Elul we hear the sound of the shofar, calling us to attention, imploring us to wake from our spiritual slumber.
Listen to loved ones. What are they saying? What aren’t they saying? How can you support them as they ready themselves to face the new year on the horizon?
Listen to “the still small voice” within. What do you need now? What is the Source of your Strength now? What is your future self beckoning you to become?
Learn from the moon, how she waxing and wanes. Our Sages say, The Jewish People is like the moon, living through times of darkness and times of enlightenment. How can we move out of a shadowy time of fear towards a time of clarity and discernment?
Learn from our sacred calendar. Allow the rhythm of Jewish life move us from a stage of reacting to the news of the day to proactively planning for the lives we wish to create and the world we wish to inhabit.
Learn from our sacred texts. Every day of Ellul we read Psalm 27. Our biblical ancestor declares in a moment of clarity and self-knowing, “One thing I ask of the Eternal One, only this do I seek: to live in the House of the Eternal all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Eternal and worship in the Temple.” This verse has never resonated as profoundly as it does this year. We long to return to our Sanctuary. We have invested so much in our beautiful spaces, but they will have to wait a while longer for our return.
Many congregants have registered to come by during Ellul for a private Shehechiyanu before the Open Ark. As I write to you Cantor Rosen and our new Production Team are setting up the cameras and the sound systems so that you can travel virtually to take your seat in the sanctuary. Volunteer “ushers and greeters” are preparing to welcome you to our Virtual Atrium for the half-hour before and after each Sanctuary Service, so you can meet fellow congregants and wish one another L’Shanah Tovah.
When the Israelites were shut out from The Temple in Jerusalem they lamented, “Where will we pray?” The Sages explained that each home would become a Mikdash M’at, a small sanctuary of its own. Here are some suggestions for how you might create a sacred space within your home for the purpose of High Holy Day prayers.
- Clear the clutter from your usual workspace and lay down a tablecloth or special scarf beneath your laptop.
- Choose a comfortable chair and make it special with a pillow.
- Collect the ritual objects you will need. Tallit, kippah, candlesticks, Kiddush cup, apples and honey. Are there family heirlooms that you want to have nearby? A grandmother’s honey dish or a shofar from a trip to Israel, for example.
- Surround yourself with photos of the people you love. Pictures of the living who are scattered across the city or the globe. And pictures of those who have gone from this lifetime and whose memories grace your holy days. Place a Yahrtzeit Candle next to those photos, so you can light it on the eve of Yom Kippur. (The Temple Brotherhood has Yahrtzeit Candles available for you to pick up from the Temple if you’d like.)
- Machzor, High Holy Day Prayerbook. All of the liturgy will be shown on the screen in real-time, so it will be easy for you to follow along in Hebrew and in English. If, however, you’d like a Machzor to hold in your hands, you can arrange to pick up a borrowed copy by writing to Abigail Carpenter Winch, our Director of Membership and Community Engagement at [email protected]. Transliterations to key prayers will also be available on our website.
- When New Years Cards begin to arrive, you may wish to place them around your prayer space. Or print out this blessing and set it nearby.
בְּזֶה הַשַּׁעַר לֹא יָבוֹא צַעַר
בְּזֹאת הַדִּירָה לֹא תָבוֹא צָרָה
בְּזֹאת הַדֶּלֶת לֺא תָבוֹא בֶּהָלָה
בְּזֹאת הַמַּחְלָקָה לֺא תָבוֹא מַחְלוֺקֶת
בְּזֶה הַמָּקוֺם תְּהִי בְרָכָה וְשָׁלוֺם
Let no sorrow come through this gate.
Let no trouble come into this dwelling.
Let no fear come through this door.
Let no conflict enter this space.
Let there be blessing and peace in this place.
- Try a practice run well in advance, so you feel confident with the technology. Ask a relative or friend to help you. We also have congregant-volunteers who are happy to walk you through it. Remember to turn off your email and other programs that can distract and interrupt your well-deserved prayerful respite from the daily demands. Remember that you can PHONE IN to hear the services if you wish to keep it simple.
Bridging the Gaps
We will miss the crowds and feeling “a part of something larger,” so please send in your L’Shanah Tovah photos or video clips to [email protected], so we can see one another. We will miss sharing Yom Tov meals with one another, but our Zoom Dining Rooms will enable us to set our tables next to one another and break bread together. We can order prepared Yom Tov meals or arrange for a gift of challah or honey cake for a loved one or neighbour. We will miss singing together in harmony, but the High Holy Day melodies will ring in your own home as never before.
Here is a link to a new version of a verse from Psalm 27, Achat Sha’alti, One Thing Do I Ask. Only This Do I Seek. I hope its simplicity and sincerity will inspire you to contemplate your own path to the new year, now on the near horizon. https://vimeo.com/449365220?fbclid=IwAR3NzpCWQZ35mR3R3lZGi9_mLSqpRNwiPijvsNuf-18i4Mypy9d64RztruQ
Chodesh Tov. Shabbat Shalom. And L’Shanah Tovah!