As we approach the High Holy Days, the feeling is unmistakable. The feel in the air the smell of leaves turning brown, the sounds of the melodies we use just during this time of year. At least, that is how I had usually experienced it.
This year, as the Holidays approach, everything seems different. Here in Reno, we have been hit with (what I’m told is unusual) a heat wave and blanketed by haze and smoke from forest fires. To that, I would add a personal bit of anxiety, not just over the upcoming bouts of self-reflection and soul-searching, but the task of leading the congregation through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Still, there is something familiar. Those tunes and melodies have filled our home as Rabbi Sara prepares for High Holiday Choir rehearsal. The apple tree behind the synagogue has shed its blossoms and tiny round apples have begun to grow. And the turning inward, the cheshbon hanefesh, the accounting of one’s soul, has begun. With sermons to write, services to plan, and countless volunteers to enlist, perhaps it is not so unfamiliar after all.
It does not matter that the setting is different. What matters is that we are different, or willing to be. This is the time for turning. Whether it is the turning of the seasons, the turning inward, or the return to community, it feels familiar because it does happen every year. It happens whether we gather to read from a new prayer book or one worn with age. It does not matter if our tashlich service has us cast bread into the Truckee, the Mississippi, or the Atlantic Ocean. Whether we break the fast with herring and whiskey or a light meal with the congregation, does not matter, either. What matters is that we take this time for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Rabbi Benjamin Zober