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The Choices We Make

08/05/2021 02:13:00 PM


  I’m delighted to have returned from a busy and refreshing mini-Sabbatical.  I feel a bit like Moses coming down the mountain after his 40 days.  He was ready to present tablets of inspiration, but was greeted with a Golden Calf.  No idols were installed in the sanctuary in my absence, but COVID-19 changes mean that I’ll have to drop some of the tablets I brought back in order provide an update on our plans for the next few weeks and the High Holidays in just over a month, and I’ll end with just a taste of Torah.

We had hoped that COVID would be behind us as we approached 5782.  Unfortunately, disease rates in our area have more than tripled in the last two weeks. While as a congregation we are fortunate that the vast majority of our adult congregants are vaccinated, the guidance of our medical advisors and the personal experience of members of our community, is that those of us who are vaccinated and otherwise healthy are at a sharply reduced risk of life-threatening illness, but can still get quite sick and spread the virus to others.

After consulting with our COVID Task Force, we will be following new CDC guidance and, effective immediately, all indoor activities will require masking, even for those who are fully vaccinated. We will continue to offer a full schedule of services, with the option to participate in-person with masks and virtually via Zoom and stream. It is very likely that after this Shabbat we will need to pause indoor kiddush lunch and move some activities to an outdoor format. We will  base our decision-making on the best new scientific data available to us and further tighten or relax our policies based on local conditions. Our educational staff will communicate directly with Preschool and BT LAB families, if any changes will affect these programs.

Many have asked about our High Holiday plans.  Check your postal mail for our beautiful High Holiday preview, printed several weeks ago.  We hope to stay as close as possible to what we had originally planned, offering the choice for our community to participate in High Holiday services in a variety of formats, including indoor, outdoor, and virtual.  We will make whatever modifications are necessary to provide inspiring experiences while ensuring the health and safety of our worshippers and staff.  Some indoor options will require proof of vaccination.  We expect to provide updated information, including the ability to sign up for those service options that will require registration, the week of August 15.

This week we are reading Parashat Re’eh, which speaks of the Israelites preparing to enter the Promised Land. Moses makes it clear that this land of opportunities is very much a land of blessings and curses. In the desert, their path and destiny was set for them.  In the land of Israel, the fate of the entire nation would be determined by their choices.  Individuals, families, and even whole towns and communities will be blessed or cursed, saved or destroyed based on their actions, with the consequences laid out clearly before them.  A year ago, we were like the Israelites in the desert, isolated, with our fates in the hand of forces beyond our control.  Now, the power of good and evil is in the hands of each individual. The choices we and those around us make, determine our own well-being, and whether we are able to keep the Promised Land that we had begun to enter.

Sat, September 30 2023 15 Tishrei 5784