Consider the “New, New Normal”
Like all of us (I hope), I have now settled into the “new normal”. I am double-vaccinated; when I go out to stores or restaurants (which is now seldom), I use my COVID vaccination app; wash my hands, and respect physical distancing rules. Whether it’s due to my naturally Canadian, compliant nature, sheer resignation, or just acceptance, I have now embraced the “new normal” as a way of life.
And, let’s not forget that the “new normal”, has had some benefits. To the delight of my family, I have returned to baking and have perfected lemon cranberry loaf.
I have also gone digital at Holy Blossom which has also been perfected over the last 18 months!
And if you haven’t tuned in, you might want to give it a try! It’s a “new normal” that’s easy to get use to. Through innovation, hard work, dedication and yes, pivoting, Holy Blossom has transformed from a welcoming, arms wide-open, fulfilling, house of worship, to a welcoming, arms wide-open, fulfilling, house and far-reaching community of worship. That’s the “new normal” at Holy Blossom.
But have you heard about the “New, new normal” at Holy Blossom? What’s that you ask? It’s actually a combination of the best of both worlds, pre and post-pandemic. The “new, new normal” is about coming back inside the temple’s gorgeous sanctuary. Sure your living room sofa is comfortable but is it Romanesque revival? The “new, new normal” is about enjoying live music, our cantors, musicians and choir. It’s seeing our rabbis leading worship and providing relevant insights and analysis. It’s seeing old friends and acquaintances, up close (i.e., closer than Zoom anyway). It’s about being able to turn over your shoulder on Saturday mornings and wish “Shabbat Shalom” to an old friend, acquaintance or stranger.
If you are tuning in, relishing Holy Blossom’s new normal, that’s great. If you are seeking the “new, new normal” experience at Holy Blossom, that is, worshiping in person; and you’ve done all those things I mentioned in the first paragraph (e.g., double-vaccinated, etc.), strongly consider giving it a try. The new, new normal is coming back to in-person worship and it rocks!
The Return, or Back to Back Services
As one who has returned in person to both Kabbalat Shabbat and Saturday morning services, I can attest to the safety and comfort of each one. Friday evening in the Mishkan offers a unique and meaningful transition between weekdays and Shabbat. I arrive early to study the atrium, which always reveals some new detail – whether the stained glass panels of the twelve tribes leading to the sanctuary or the sound of water coursing through the greenery of the living wall. Lighting from all directions enhances the atmosphere.
Once inside the Mishkan, I recognize familiar faces, some of whom I had not seen for almost two years. The light settles; we settle in. The rotation of our three rabbis, as well as the musical leadership of Cantor Rosen or Lindi Rivers, provides variety to the service. Looking out of the high windows towards Bathurst Street, where trees rather than traffic come into view, we connect nature to the interior service. As soon as the Shabbat candles are lit, an internal glow takes over, and the new and familiar melodies weave the congregation together. While we remain focused on rabbi and cantor, there is also an awareness of those viewing the service online with the screen behind us. At the end of “l’cha dodi” we rise and turn, greeting the Sabbath Queen, and once again take in parts of the atrium outside the Mishkan.
A brief sermon highlights the weekly Torah portion and some aspects of current events. The hour concludes with Kiddush, challah, and a sense of harmony, not just in the music, but in the chemistry between clergy and congregants.
Shabbat morning in the sanctuary is generally more formal with the choir and a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Once again, I find familiar faces. Occasionally, David Gershon with his guitar joins Cantor Rosen and Lindi in spiritual and spirited singing. The stained-glass windows tell different stories from the transparent panes of the Mishkan. Rabbi Splansky has taught about wide and narrow windows, and their quality of light. By extension, one thinks about the narrow and wide ends of a shofar for the sound equivalents of these visual openings. More broadly still, the trajectory of Jewish history proceeds from Mitzraim, a narrow place, to Yisrael – a wider, upright place. And this wider vision encompasses all of us.
Since many quote Yehuda Amichai, who has a poem for almost every occasion, I turn to his “Forgetting Someone”:
“Forgetting someone is like forgetting to turn off the light
in the backyard so it stays lit all the next day
But then it is the light that makes you remember.”
There is a comfort to be found in our own homes. There is another comfort in our synagogue. After nearly two years of screen vision, it feels good to be back in person with broader, vibrant vistas, and to remember more than someone.