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Rabbi Stiefel's Monthly Article

Current September 2020

Rabbi Sharon Stiefel


The Great Mayim Rabim Zoom Get-Together


    The Minnesota State Fair’s slogan is The Great Minnesota Get-Together. I like to think of our High Holidays as The Great Mayim Rabim Get-Together. Just a few of my favorite things are: our voices soaring, over half of the congregation participating or volunteering in some way, and enjoying Rosh HaShanah lunch and Yom Kippur break-fast together.

    A year ago, we could not have imagined Mayim Rabim gathering by Zoom for the High Holidays.  Yes, we all feel a sense of loss and disorientation; this is not how we’d like it to be.  But we are a resilient people, and pikuah nefesh [preserving life and health] must be our highest priority. 

    Last month we sent out a survey so we could learn what High Holiday experiences were essential for you and whose absence would make the holidays less than completely spiritually satisfying. Your responses included: hearing the sound of the shofar, singing the High Holiday melodies, the high level of participation of our members, symbolically ridding ourselves of our sins at Tashlich, memorializing those lost, eating Holiday meals together, and listening to the talks of the Rabbi and others.

    While we cannot recreate the High Holidays of the past, we can accentuate the values and meaning that we hold dear. Our Elul spiritual exploration groups and study session during the month preceding these Holy Days are ways we can gather to prepare. Our president Sandra Levine and I will be distributing home- baked round challah and grape juice on Sunday, September 13 as a way to personally wish each of you a sweet New Year. At our High Holiday services over Zoom, we will also see and greet each other. Utilizing break-out rooms at each service will be a way for us to connect even more deeply. Our services will be abbreviated to alleviate Zoom fatigue. We’ll hear familiar High Holiday melodies and shofar blasts. (Our custom is not to blow shofar on the first day of Rosh Hashanah when it coincides with Shabbat.) On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, weather permitting, we will gather safely in person for a short Tashlich ceremony and have the opportunity to hear the shofar blasts live.

    As we prepare for the High Holidays, I want to suggest some ways that you may want to set apart spiritual space while we are unable to come together in our familiar ritual home.

  • Have a separate area in your home for services that’s different from your normal work space. While we are still meeting via the computer, moving to a distinctive place signals that our prayer space is set apart. You might want to add ritual items such as a Kiddush cup or candlesticks to the area.
  • Dress up! Though a few months ago I made a humorous video extolling the comfort of being able to attend services in one’s pajamas, dressing a little nicer than we normally would is another way we can capture the difference of these holidays. You may want to consider wearing white which is traditional for this season as a sign of starting the year with purity.
  • Before joining services, go for a short walk. When we drive or walk to Mayim Rabim we have time to focus our attention on what is ahead. Allow yourself some quiet moments for transitioning into services.

(I am grateful to Cantor Geoffrey Fine of Temple Beth El, Tacoma, WA for these suggestions.)

      We will still be together these High Holidays --- just differently. I look forward to joining with you for The Great Mayim Rabim Zoom Get-Together!


Wishing you and yours meaningful High Holidays!