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"So, Rabbi, Are You Ready for Rosh Hashanah?"

09/08/2022 01:42:40 PM


Rabbi Steven Folberg

The question that forms the title of this blog post is one that I am asked fairly regularly at this time of year. It most often pops up when I run into someone in the Jewish community at the grocery store, and it is most often offered with a good-natured and sympathetic smile, knowing what a busy time of year this is for rabbis. My two favorite answers to this question are as follows: 

"Ready for Rosh Hashanah? No! But then, who ever is?” 
”It depends on what you mean by 'ready'."

Hopefully, I will be ready with my sermons far enough in advance to have the time to get every word as polished as it can be.

Hopefully, I will spend enough time with the massive Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayer books to be able to sing and pray with authenticity and meaning.

And yet, in spite of all that preparation, I know that I will be unprepared for and thus overwhelmed by contemplative grandeur of the Days of Awe. Who is "completely ready" to size up their deeds in light of human mortality and fragility? Who is completely ready to make amends, to forgive and be forgiven by those we have hurt and by those who have hurt us?

That is why Rabbi Alan Lew, of blessed memory, entitled his book about the fall Jewish holy days, This Is Real, and You Are Completely Unprepared!

That said, let me suggest engaging in one or both of the following Jewish spiritual practices between now and Rosh Hashanah Eve, on September 25, as preparation for the holiday.

First: the Mishnah tells us that we should strive to greet every person “b’sever panim yafot,” “with a pleasant facial expression.” I’ve found you can turn this directive into action, preparing for Rosh Hashanah by intentionally and thoughtfully, going out of your way to be friendly and pleasant to people you interact with but may not know personally. 

Smile at the barista or server in a coffee shop or restaurant, look them in the eye with a smile and ask them how they are, with the kavvanah (intention) of appreciating their service to you and truly wishing them well. Resolve to sweeten their day through your attention and concern. It's a small way of practicing being a better person. And it’ll lift your spirits, too.

Second: take time to notice and appreciate and bless the natural world around you. You might even try "grounding," the practice of standing barefoot, or lying on the ground and sensing the solidity and support and energy of God's earth beneath you (of course, checking for fire ants first). After all, Rosh Hashanah is understood as The Birthday of the World. Connecting with the earth is a great way of reopening yourself to an awareness of the wonder your own existence.

Both of these practices are so fundamentally simple that they might sound a little silly, but done with deliberateness, you'll be surprised at how powerful they can be.

Speaking of High Holy Day preparation, please take note:

You just received an email with comprehensive instructions for participating in our off-site Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services this year. Please read them carefully. You can also access the information here

Whether you plan to attend services in person at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, or access the streaming services online, please be sure to register by filling in the online form located here.

Your registration will help us plan for a comfortable and rewarding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur experience for all!


L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu,

Rabbi Steven Folberg

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784