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Standing Together, Apart

09/02/2021 05:23:43 PM


Parashat Nitzavim provides a unique vision of a unified Jewish life. Moses describes a moment of unprecedented common experience, which brings together every segment of society, from leaders, elders and officials to the menial laborers, citizens and foreigners, men and women, young and old, to enter into a shared covenant. Today, those experiences where an entire community joins for common focus are increasingly rare. In our own congregation, our range of different High Holiday options meant that Neilah, the closing service of Yom Kippur was the only time that every every segment of our community was represented in one place.

Last year’s High Holidays were, in some sense, a return to that Nitzavim experience. We were all having the same experience of being in our homes. This year, as a community we are in more places than ever before, to serve different needs and different comfort levels.  People can choose from as many as six different outdoor options and two indoor services every day, plus streams. We had to create an FAQ just to help people find the right option for their needs.

But in the most important ways, we are back to the vision of Nitzavim. It was important to us that all are included.  Every generation of our congregation has an option addressing their needs.  We are not limiting people based on finances- many of our services are available free of charge to the community.  And we are “welcoming the stranger”- as refugees from New Orleans will be joining us as well in person. Moses speaks of “those who are with us and those who are not with us.”   People will be logging in to our stream from down the street and across the country.

There are still many forces, religious differences, political debates, and more, seeking to fragment us. Jews have always found ways to create community, to join together for shared purpose no matter what challenges we faced, no matter what philosophical issues divided us.

This year, we can all strive to be a community, even if we are in different places and different spaces. We don’t need to give up our disagreements, but we seek the common ground that lets us address them constructively. We join in the shared purpose of supporting Operation Isaiah to feed the hungry.  We can each pray for those in need of healing, and in support of each other’s fulfillment in the coming year. When the Neilah gates close, two weeks from tonight, and we go our separate ways, I pray that it is with a sense of appreciation for what it meant to be together, even if we were apart.

Fri, June 14 2024 8 Sivan 5784