Last April as I watched my Christian colleagues quickly alter their plans for their Easter observance, I marveled at how nimbly they adapted their services. I have to admit I was relieved thinking the pandemic would soon end, and we would not have to make such draconian adjustments come the High Holy Days in the fall!
This year, most of our congregations have decided to offer virtual services, and have either pre-recorded the worship or have scheduled “Zoom” services. Some, like ours, are planning to use a hybrid model, a combination of pre-recorded, Zoom and in-person observances.
Every year, I am inspired when I look out at my congregation and see the large numbers who have gathered in our sanctuary. There is something stirring and ennobling knowing that I share a history and a destiny with so many others.
While some aspects of the worship experience will be different this year, to say that we cannot capture the spirit of these High Holy Days would be to deny the Jewish genius for persistence, endurance, and the capacity not only to survive, but to thrive.
Two thousand years ago, the Second Temple was destroyed. Jewish worship changed forever. At the same time, small synagogues appeared and a new kind of worship experience emerged. Had our ancestors not adapted to their new reality, Judaism would have disappeared.
Our greatest strength has always been our ability to adjust to a changing world.
The pandemic has not stopped us from worshipping, if anything many more people have chosen to use technology to attend services and classes. Though this year’s High Holy Days will be different, we can still be together – if not physically, certainly spiritually.
One day soon, a vaccine will be found; the pandemic will disappear and we will come back to our synagogues. Judaism will survive, indeed flourish and when we return, we will embrace the new skills we have acquired and the novel ways we can be together.
Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein leads Temple Emanuel in Andover.